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Throwback: AES yearbook from 1974 depicts vintage Tiger

Throwback: AES yearbook from 1974 depicts vintage Tiger
Posted on 01/10/2019

In 1974, Arlington Elementary School was a much different place. Teachers and students had just moved from the old school, a two-story brick building located on Chester Road, to the building where students still attend today.

It had less than 300 students and was operating as an “open-spaced school.” Billed as the first of its kind in Shelby County Schools, the open-spaced classroom was one large room with hundreds of students learning and working on different lessons. 

Arlington Elementary School from 1973

There were only two traditional classrooms in the entire school, one for music and one for art, and inside the art room was a young teacher named Jeri Wexler, who essentially became an art teacher overnight.

“I had no training in art whatsoever,” Wexler laughed during a recent phone interview. “I actually taught 2nd grade, but they couldn’t find an art teacher…so I relied on what I knew and took on the role.”

What she knew were skills she picked up as a summer camp counselor in her years before teaching. She started the students off with the basics, like mixing colors, paintings and drawings. Art, Wexler said, gave the students a chance to try things they had never done before.

“We dealt with children in the community who were rural at theDrawing of a tiger time,” she said. “There wasn’t very much in Arlington, except for cotton fields and farmers and things like that, so art was a new world for many of them.”

Over time, Wexler said she became more comfortable teaching art. She was even tasked with drawing the Tiger mascot for the 1974 yearbook. In black and white and with bold letters, her drawing of the Tiger was used for many years at AES.

“It’s quite rewarding to be in the beginning of anything,” Wexler said. “I was in the building when it first opened. I drew art for one of the first yearbooks created for the school. I still hear from some of my former students…many of them are now grandparents themselves. It’s all really special.”