Some families boast a lineage and heritage of coal mining, logging or some other profession. My family is a family of mountain educators.
Beginning with my grandfather, John Wesley Combs, who taught in a one-room school in the early 20th Century, down to the current generation of Brashears, there have been teachers in every generation of my family tree.
The origin of the longest Brashear teaching lineage comes from my grandfather, Marion Brashear. From around 1946-1958, he taught in a small two-room school named Roger’s Branch on the Left Hand Fork of Maces Creek in Viper. This school was near his homestead, where he helped raise eight children and was pastor at Lone Pine Baptist Church for 50 years. In fact, his descendants still live on this patch of land today. His third wife, Dora Fields Brashear, taught 33 years in Perry County, with many of those years being at Viper Elementary. Marion’s daughter-in-law, Bea Brashear, taught for 32 years, mostly at Viper Elementary and some at Roger’s Branch; and, his son, Robert “Chig” Brashear, taught for 28 years combined at Cornett Fill Grade School near Christopher, where he served as head teacher/principal, and at R.W. Combs Elementary.
The next generation of Brashear educators featured husband and wife teaching teams. My brother, Mitch, is currently in his 26th year of teaching. He is now a “homebound” teacher, but most of his career was spent as a physical education and health educator at Perry County Central High School. Mitch’s wife, Sally Brashear, was a teacher and guidance counselor for 28 years in Knott County, though she did serve in Perry County for a short time. My cousin, and Chig Brashear’s son, Doug, recently retired with 27 years of experience as a science/biology teacher, and his wife, Brenda, has 32 years teaching experience in special education, both in Perry County. My cousin, Jim Brashear, is currently in his 22nd year of teaching science at R.W. Combs Elementary, and his wife, Sue Ellen Brashear, retired two years ago after teaching special education for 28 years-mostly at Viper Elementary and R.W. Combs Elementary. My brother, Nick, recently retired after 20 years as a maintenance employee of Perry County Schools, and his wife, Laura, currently teaches in the Hazard Community and Technical College System. My only sister, Pam Brashear, is now teaching science and social studies at Viper Elementary. She has taught 19-1/2 years in Perry County, and spent 5-1/2 years teaching in Letcher and Knott Counties as a Montessori teacher. My wife, Deliliah Sue Brashear, taught physical education for 19 years at Viper Elementary, and served 10 years as principal there, before retiring in 2015. As for myself, I taught 8-1/2 years at Viper Elementary before becoming Director of Pupil Personnel at the Perry County Board of Education in 1995, where I will have worked 20-1/2 years prior to my upcoming retirement on March 1, 2016.
The family has cousins who are also directly descended born the Marion Brashear family, who taught and are still teaching. Traci Tackett, whose father, Winston Fields, also taught and was Transportation Director in Perry County, teaches in Pike County, and Tennessee cousins Becky and Dennis Livesay are both retired teachers. Their daughter, Robin Stump, and niece, Heather Stubblefield, remain as teachers today.
If we bring in descendants of Marion’s siblings, then we would have to mention Joe Michael Brashear who was a longtime teacher at Dilce Combs Memorial High School as well as Viper, (and Transportation and Maintenance Director for Perry County), and his wife, Paulette, who spent her teaching career in the Perry County System as well, most of those years at Viper Elementary with some at R.W. Combs, and then there are Joe Michael’s brothers, Darrell, who also taught at Leatherwood and was a counselor at Dilce Combs, and Neil Brashear, who taught in the Hazard Community and Technical College System. Their niece, Wanda Brown, retired this past year for the Perry County System, and Wanda’s brother, Scott, taught and was a principal in the Perry County System for 18 years.
And now, the next generation of teachers/school employees is taking shape as my nephew, Justin Brashear, son of my sister Pam, has joined the education fold in Floyd County, teaching health and physical education at Betsy Layne High School, and my niece, Emily, Mitch’s daughter, has decided to contribute to the educational system by working as a school psychologist in the Adams County-Rocky Top School System in Denver, Colorado.
Collectively, my family has more than 500 years of teaching experience, and I believe we have all proudly held the responsibility of teaching in the highest regards. We have always had the utmost respect for our profession, and have seen it as highly important throughout our careers. We have served our communities, teaching the children we have been and still are entrusted with every day to strive to achieve the highest levels of education possible. Beyond that, we have tried to help them become the best versions of themselves they can be and to grow into good, decent human beings who put as much into their communities as we have put into them. Indeed, with each student that passes through our classrooms, a ripple is started that grows out into the world in many varied ways. We teaching Brashears have never taken that responsibility lightly. Our family values and work ethic, passed down to us from generations past, seem to help create and develop terrific educators, and I know that this legacy will continue on well into the future.
Edited by Ivy Brashear.