Anti-bias group will honor Helen Prince, who taught migrant children

10/02/2015 6:00 AM |

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She may have first stepped into the classroom more than 65 years ago, but the late Helen Wright Prince will be honored next week by Southold Town’s Anti-Bias Task Force for championing a life of openness and promoting diversity during the years she worked as a teacher.

Ms. Prince, who died in 2013 at the age of 101, didn’t work at a typical school. She taught at the school that opened in 1949 at the site of the Cutchogue migrant labor camp.

At the time of her hire she was told, “You don’t have to teach [the students] anything,” but Ms. Prince did just that — and much more — during her 12 years at the school.

“As an educator, Ms. Prince was not afraid to challenge the obstacles that so often and insidiously inhibited the children of migrant workers from achieving their goals,” Anti-Bias Task Force co-chairs Sonia Spar and Valerie Shelby said in a statement.

In a 1989 piece she wrote for the Long Island Forum documenting her experience, Ms. Prince described a litany of problems she encountered at the school: 30 children ages 6 to 14 occupying a single classroom, frequent fighting and her own “most horrifying moment” when the schoolroom stove exploded, covering her in soot from head to toe.

The event honoring Ms. Prince is set for this Monday, Oct. 5, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Southold Town Recreation Center in Peconic. Tracy Moloney, teen librarian at Greenport’s Floyd Memorial Library, will speak about Ms. Prince’s contributions and artwork by Southold school district students will be on display.

Moving forward, the Anti-Bias Task Force will honor others for accomplishments reminiscent of Ms. Prince’s each October — which also happens to be Bullying Awareness Month.

Photo Caption: Helen Prince with her proclamation in 2003. (Credit: Judy Ahrens, file)

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