Photos by K2 Images
Most of us can recall, during our school days of bygone years, someone who touched our lives in a most wonderful and meaningful way. This person left an indelible mark on us, and possibly even guided our life into areas of success and fulfillment that would not otherwise have become a reality. One such champion exists in the person of Prince Fite, Assistant Principal of Madisonville Elementary School. This writer had the pleasure of meeting and spending a delightful time with Mr. Fite and can attest to the fact that, yes, he is a champion!
I was born in the “Black-eyed Pea Capital of the World,” better known as Athens, Texas. For many years, Athens would host the Black-eyed Pea Jamboree, which drew great crowds and would result in countless new recipes sporting their claim to fame by the inclusion of this illustrious pea. During summers, from age 13-15, I picked these peas, and worked in the local cannery which produced the Homefolks brand of canned peas, tomatoes, and other locally grown vegetables. Working in the cannery, I didn’t get rich, but it did keep me out of trouble! I also did my time in the local Curtis Mathes manufacturing plant making TVs. I hope there are some of these televisions still around, at least one, somewhere! During my years at Fisher High School in Athens, I enjoyed basketball and played the trumpet in band.
I attended Paul Quinn College in Waco, which has since relocated to Dallas. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Education, I enrolled in Sam Houston State University to work on a Master’s in Educational Administration and completed 30 hours toward this endeavor. I stopped short of completing this degree when I decided not to pursue a career in public school administration. I eventually did earn my Master’s in 1990 from Prairieview A&M. This was after losing the 30 hours I had earned from SHSU, since the time lapse was too great between my master degree stints. My wife says I earned my master’s twice, and it sure seemed I had! And, actually, the 30 hours I took at SHSU allowed me to get my first administrative position, even though I had not completed that degree. Every step of my education has paid off for me.
Okay, hang on for this quick tour. I taught English in Marian Anderson High School which, after integration, was renamed Madisonville Junior High. This leg of the journey began in 1966 and continued until 1975. Then, I quit teaching and took a part-time job as the director of the education department at a job training facility for mentally challenged youth. This part-time job became full-time, lasting three years until the facility closed in 1978.
At this time, my wife Mary was working in Centerville, and I knew everyone in Centerville. I was offered a job teaching 10th grade English, replacing a teacher who was going on leave. In January 1979, I began teaching at the Ferguson prison facility in the Windham School District. I loved teaching the inmates and would have stayed, but I needed a higher paying job in order to support my family. In June 1979, a position opened for principal of Normangee High School, which I applied for and got. I stayed there until my daughter graduated from Madisonville High School, and in 1986 I applied for and was offered the principal position at MHS. Being a typical teenager, my daughter didn’t want me there until she had graduated! I stayed at the high school until 2002.
In 2002, the position of assistant principal at Madisonville Elementary School became available. I applied for and was offered the position and have been here ever since. My high school students called me “traitor” for leaving them! It’s been a fun journey, and I’ve loved the students every step of the way.
Yes, I have worked with all ages and enjoyed my experience with each one. Teaching English to the young men ages 18-22 at the Ferguson Prison Unit was fascinating. I had each student one day a week and found most of them to be very smart and eager to learn. I loved working there and, as I stated, would have stayed if the pay had been better. This was one of my favorite jobs.
I enjoy high school students because you can carry on conversations with them. They all need guidance in one way or the other, so I could connect with them on a more personal level. Being involved with their social activities was a huge plus. I enjoyed going to their sporting events and cheering them on.
Then, we have the junior high age. I have always said that the 4-5 years I spent at the junior high was my testing period! Many challenges no doubt, but very rewarding! Those kids were very smart!
And now I’m with elementary students. Let me tell you this—walking in that front door every day is a thrill! I’m immediately confronted with a thousand hugs, and the kids love on me all day long! Many of them call me Papa. They are so affectionate, and I can’t resist it! They bring a smile to my face all day long.
Yes, yes, I really did! It was fun. The kids know that I’m always good for a fundraiser of any kind, and yes, that includes kissing a goat! It was a fundraiser for Relay for Life on the elementary campus here. I was entered because everyone knew that the kids would empty their piggybanks to make sure I won. And I did. I also won a Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser which resulted in receiving a pie in my face! And the fundraiser that I am still sore from, two years after the event, was the hula hoop contest. And, yes, I won that one as well. Sometimes these fundraising events have their not-so-pleasant side effects! I live in fear of what fundraising activity they will dream up next!
Mary and I were married on October 28, 1967, and have always had big hearts for kids. We have three children: Allyson Ricks, age 48; Zachary, age 43 (adopted at age 3); and Christasia, age 13 (adopted at age 5). We have been licensed foster care parents for many years. When I worked as the director at the job training facility mentioned previously, I was required to be a licensed childcare administrator by the state.
As you can see, children of all ages have always been important to us. When Mary would come home on Fridays from her job in Centerville ISD, many times she would have a carload of kids who wanted to stay with us for the weekend. In fact, some of these weekends lengthened into years for several of the kids. One girl stayed with us for two years before going back to live at home. We have adopted two of these children over the years as mentioned above, Zachary and Christasia. Christasia’s mom had been one of our foster children. We never did any of this for show, but to love and help all of these children over the years. Many would have made it without our help, but some of them truly needed us.
I’ve been involved in many civic organizations over the years and am presently working with the Madison County Juneteenth organization, the Madison County Retired Teachers Association, having served as president for 3 two-year terms, and the Madison County Crime Stoppers organization, having previously served in an official capacity with this group as well. I also served on the Child Welfare Advisory Board for more than 6 years, and have held the position of president of Fisher High Alumni Association for the past 8 years.
And when I’m not at school getting hugs from these precious kids or working in a civic capacity, you can generally find me outside at home doing yardwork.
I love riding my lawn mower and cleaning up the yard. In fact, I’m known as a fire bug! When the conditions are right, I keep a burn pile going of old tree limbs and yard debris. Very relaxing!
We attend Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church where I serve on the deacon staff. We both sing in the choir, and Mary teaches Sunday School and works with Vacation Bible School in the summers. I don’t teach in Sunday School, but I’m a good listener! When we get home from church on Sundays, I’m in charge of Sunday dinner, and the kitchen is my domain!
I love to cook Sunday dinner and it usually consists of “melt-in-your-mouth” grilled steak, loaded baked potatoes, Italian cut green beans, and a garden salad. And occasionally, that famous black-eyed pea will finds its way to our dinner table, too, and it certainly brings back memories! I’m thankful for the life God has given me and for the many family members, colleagues, students, and friends He has blessed me with. I hope to continue enjoying this wonderful life for many years to come.
Mr. Fite, you have lived life as a true champion! You have earned an A+++! Keep up the good work!