*Fifth in a series of hopefully many stores from men and women telling a story about the women who most influenced them.
COCHRAN, GEORGIA: Christy Payton Odom went through some “tough years, and a hard home life during my middle school and high school years.”
It was during middle school, though, that Christy discovered one of the most influential women in her life – Melissa Barker, her cheerleading coach and teacher.
“Mrs. Barker was always willing to help even if it was just to listen to you,” Christy said. “Even it if was about personal issues.”
She said, “I became pregnant at age 15, and Mrs. Barker never once judged me.”
Barker, who now teaches at Bleckley County High School in Cochran and was recently selected as teacher of the year, made a big difference in Christy’s life.
“She only encouraged me, supported me and never made me feel ashamed … she always smiled,” Christy said, adding, “and my child went on to have Mrs. Barker as a teacher years later, and is a very successful 23-year-old now.”
In describing Barker further, Christy said, “She demonstrated then and now love and true care for her students, and always made us feel like we could conquer the world, be anything we our minds to be.”
“In fact, she was always a voice of reason for me … even when I was wrong … and she loved me anyway,” she added.
Christy said, “Melissa Barker is wonderful inspiration as a woman to many…she influenced me in many ways!”
“Mrs. Barker will never know just how much she inspired me even to this day,” she concluded.
Christy has two daughters, one son and one bonus son and daughter.
In offering advice to her own children – her daughters especially, Christy said, “Take a deep breath, live each day like it is your last, choose to love, and work hard at what ever you do in life.”
The month of March is designated as Women’s History Month, and is an opportunity to celebrate the impact women have made on history. The Murphy Gazette will offer several interviews of men and women from Texas and Georgia detailing the most influential women in their life. Email email@example.com your story. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @themurphygazette.com and Twitter: @tmurphygazette.