Margaret K. Lewis is known for opening Bay County’s first school for students with disabilities decades ago.
On Sunday, Lewis celebrated her 100th birthday with friends, school faculty, and her family.
“She is the legend, the living legend, that began exceptional education in Bay County,” Lois Lawrence, a long-time friend, said.
Lewis began teaching during a time when children with special needs were forgotten.
“They had no programs at all. They just couldn’t go to school,” she said.
When the school she taught at, Oak Grove Elementary, closed, she vowed to bring it back. This time, with a new mission.
“She went to Tommy Smith, who was the superintendent at the time, and said ‘we need to do something about these students’. The parents were starting to advocate for the rights of their children and she thought that was extremely important,” Cathy Felty, a friend, current Bay Dist. teacher of the year, and teacher at the Margaret K. Lewis school, said.
Years later, Lewis is remembered as a pioneer.
“I don’t know what this community would have done without Margaret leading the way,” Lawrence said.
She now has a century worth of wisdom to share.
“She’s not afraid to do the work that it takes to make her ideas come to fruition and that’s why we’re here today,” Lori Hast, the school’s current principal, said.
“That lady is as sharp today as she was 50 years ago,” Lawrence said.
“I’m just amazed,” Lewis said, “overwhelmed as they say,” when asked how she feels that hundreds are celebrating with her.
Members of the school’s faculty say she’s still very active in the school’s advisory meetings, and has never stopped advocating for Bay County’s youth.