A hallway parade Friday at Douse Elementary School featured dozens of African-American contributors of the past and a Killeen educator led them all.
Dressed in costumes and carrying banners, older students represented Martin Luther King Jr., Sojourner Truth, Barack Obama and scores of inventors, athletes, performers and statesmen.
At the front, fifth-graders Barrington Batchelor, Zya Thompson and Gabrielle Wright represented Alice W. Douse, the namesake of their school, newly opened this school year and named for the first female African-American principal in Killeen Independent School District.
Smiling broadly and shooting photos and videos with her phone, Douse’s oldest daughter, Cathy Douse-Harris, said she wanted to jump in and join the parade — and she did.
Each class at the school studied a different figure to represent for the parade. The fifth-graders in Rachel Jett’s class took on the late Alice Douse and made a friend with the former educator’s daughter.
“What an awesome honor,” said Harris as she visited the school Friday. “She loved teaching, and she loved this school district. We were with her every step of the way. At Haynes Elementary, we planted shrubs and my dad fixed things. She just loved the children.”
After walking through the hallways with the parading students, Harris ended up at Jett’s classroom and introduced herself to the whole class.
Through email, the students asked Harris a wide range of questions about her mother, sending her to examine her mother’s speeches and other papers to come up with the correct answers. She loaned personal items to the class to contribute to the parade and display.
Among the details of Douse’s past is that she earned college degrees in biology and chemistry and was a high school science teacher in Florida before her husband, Marion Douse, moved the family to Texas in a military transfer.
Marion and Alice Douse settled in the Marlboro Heights neighborhood in Killeen and she ended up teaching across the street at what was Marlboro Elementary School.
From there, she taught at Pershing Park Elementary School, became an assistant principal and moved on to be principal at Haynes and Hay Branch elementary schools before retiring in 1996.
All along the way, Douse was a trailblazer, the first African-American female in various places and roles. Those distinctions, while notable, were not the driving force of her life, her daughter said.
“She had a goal of excellence for her school,” Harris said. The term “Make Excellence a Habit,” was a favorite of the former educator.
Douse Principal Pamela Disher said the phrase would become a mantra at the new school.
A retired college instructor and human resources manager, Harris displayed her classroom savvy, interacting with 21 fifth-graders and learning all their names before she left.
“You are really wonderful,” she told the students. “Your parade and your questions make me feel so good.”
“It was amazing that I got to speak to Mrs. Harris,” said fifth-grader Zya Thompson, one of two girls wearing the style of jacket Douse often wore and glasses similar to those in photos of the educator. “I liked that we got to use some of the things special to her.”
Students set up a table that included items representing Douse’s life — symbols of her service sorority, a nameplate from her days as a school principal, an elephant figurine she collected and an assortment of news clippings.
“Since we had Mrs. Douse, we wanted to do our best,” said fifth-grader Bryson Rivers. “I liked the parade because we could see the other classes and what they were thinking about. It was exciting to meet Mrs. Harris. When she answered our questions, my heart lit up.”
“She was mother in our home,” Harris in reference to herself and her three sisters. “We didn’t even realize everything she did until later. She cooked and worked in the church. As a principal she encouraged her students and staff and she did that with us. She has left a wonderful legacy in this community.”