This weekend friends and former students will gather at the Kansas Community Center with one goal in mind.

To pay tribute and honor a long-time educator Christa Carlton and her work within the Kansas community.

For Carlton, 95, the event organized by her friends at the Kansas Senior Citizens Center is both humbling and surprising.

But for one of her friends, Rita Swicegood, Sunday's reception from 2 to 4 p.m., at the community center is a perfect way to say thank you to a long-standing member of the community.

"She has been instrumental in fundraising, school, civic and community projects," Swicegood said. "She initiated a aluminum can drive for the local library, that continues today.

"She remains active with the Kansas Senior Citizens, Kansas Public Library, Retired Teachers Association, Westville Assembly of God and other organizations.

"Christa has touched and continues to touch many lives young and older in our community."

Less Carroll, one of Carlton's former students said she was "one of the great teachers of my childhood."

"She help me get my Social Security number and much more so I could work at the school helping my father," Carroll recalled. "I was part of the carpentry class that built her house. I worked on the main bathroom and to get a picture of us in the bathroom [for the newspaper] they had to take it in the mirror on the bathroom wall."

More about Carlton

Carlton, was born on December 25, 1921 in Western Grove, Arkansas, the daughter of Sam and Minnie Carlton.

After graduating from high school, she decided to pursue a career in education - by attending Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. 

At the age of 19, with about 20 credit hours under her belt, she was assigned to teach the first four grades in a two-room school in nearby Chamberlin.

"World War II had broken out, and they came down to the college and asked for kids to quit for a while to start teaching," Carlton recalled. "I started in a two room school at the age of 19, and wound up a business teacher at Kansas High School."

Carlton said she finished her college degree during the summer, completing it in 1944. She later pursued a master's degree in business from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, graduating in 1956.

After spending one year at the Chamberlin school, Carlton and her parents moved from their home in Colcord to Westville. 

She taught at Goat Ridge Schools, riding a bicycle to class about 12 miles from her home.

"I had to go to the courthouse to sign the papers, because it had rubber tires," Carlton said. "Since it had rubber tires, I had to have special permission to buy it."

She stayed at that location for a year, before going to the Christy School near Westville for two years, and then Union Grade, south of Stilwell for two years.

She was then hired to work within the Kansas School District before retiring at the age of 65, after a combined 47 years in education. Of that time, 39 was spent in Kansas.

"I just liked school," Carlton said. "I started as math teacher, then moved into shorthand and bookkeeping." 

Carlton said her favorite part about school came as she got along with her students - especially the students at Kansas High School.

"I loved the fellowship with the kids and other teachers," she said. "I loved going to ballgames on buses. I was always interested in sports and we always had pretty good teams at Kansas."

She said she often told new teachers two things: be sure to like students, and like the outside activities that involve the students.

"That's the key to success," Carlton said. "Fellowship and develop with people, got to teacher meetings and things like that. Enjoy [life]."

Carlton became known around Kansas as the teacher who drove a "bug," saying she's had a Volkswagon Beetle since 1962. 

While she no longer drives, she continues to be chauffeured around town in her latest beetle by a friend, Greg Blair.

Her claim to fame, or proudest moment, - beyond graduating from OSU - involves the establishment of a library within Kansas. 

"I liked to read and I think the town needed a place to get books," Carlton said. 

So in 1999, after working on the board of the Eastern Oklahoma District Library System, Carlton's wish came true. A branch of the library system was established in town.

Still collects cans, to recycle for change, in a cage outside of her home, in order to support the library financially. 

She jokes she's probably read every book in the library, which in the early days was run by teachers within the school district.

But her favorite book - the one that is "her life" - remains her New King James version of the Bible.

If You Go

A reception honoring Christa Carlton, a long-time educator in the Kansas school system, will take place from 2 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 29, at the Kansas Community Building.

The event is hosted by members of the Kansas Senior Citizens Center.