Terrific Teacher: longtime educator JP Luby dies

By JASON PATTERSON,

Few people have had a greater impact on lives in this community than JP Luby.

The talented teacher, who was named Mississippi’s Teacher of the Year in 1990, died Wednesday morning at age 74.

Luby, who was born Dec. 23, 1944 in Yazoo City, always seemed destined to be a teacher.

“My Granny Luby told me before I started school that I was going to be a teacher,” Luby said in a previous interview. “I believe that she recognized that part of herself in me.”

Luby was named the state’s top teacher for 1990 in November of 1989 after an extensive statewide search. There were 58 teachers nominated statewide, and Luby was named the winner after evaluations, interviews and classroom visits from state education officials.

Luby was teaching English, journalism, drama and gifted classes at Holly Bluff at the time when he earned the state’s top teaching award. He had been teaching for 17 years at the time.

“The main thing I feel is gratitude,” Luby said in an interview after learning he had earned the honor. “I want to glorify God, that God might work through my life to direct students to lead rewarding, fulfilling lives.”

Luby said that he received a quality education at a small school, and that is what he wanted to provide for his students. He hoped to use the recognition that came with being named the state’s top teacher to teach values and change attitudes about education in the state. He said that until children appreciate the value of education, technology will not mean anything.

Luby was congratulated by Gov. Ray Mabus, and the Mississippi House of Representatives and the Mississippi Senate passes a concurrent resolution recognizing Luby’s achievement.

Luby was respected by his fellow educators, and they also valued his friendship.

Marie Downs, who also taught English in Yazoo for years, said she has fond memories of the time she spent working with Luby.

“We English teachers always had many interesting discussions,” Downs said. “JP was a brilliant person and an inspirational teacher.”

Many of Luby’s students remember him as a teacher who made learning enjoyable and helped them understand the importance of education.

“He was an amazing teacher, one of the few that made learning fun,” said Crystal King Woods.

“He was an amazing teacher who always brightened our classroom with his smile and jokes,” said Misty Alexander.

“He touched many lives,” said Meredith Muizers. “He definitely made his mark on the world.”

Luby helped educate young Yazooans in other ways outside the classroom. He served as the bookmobile librarian, bringing books to residents in rural areas. He held a fun summer camp in the early 90s where young participants learned about Shakespeare in a nontraditional setting. He led sessions at Ricks Memorial Library designed to encourage creative thinking.

Luby once explained that he had experienced both inspiration and discouragement as a teacher, but he considered the key to success to be recognizing each student’s worth.

“At the beginning of each year, I stress self-worth to my students,” he said. “When a student works to accomplish a particular thing, that student realizes his or her self-worth. Some of my students are on the road to success. Some have already reached success as lawyers, writers, doctors. Other students I have taught are serving time in prisons; some literally gave their lives for drugs. In the final analysis, we can only teach those students who want to learn; it is up to us to exert all the effort that we can to make the students enthusiastic about learning and try to point them in the right directions.”