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Rance Olison: Teacher Creates Booklet from Slavery to Obama

(Editor’s Note: Rance Olison is a native of El Dorado. His mother, Carrie Buggs; sisters, Josie Wyrick and Margaret Ross; aunt, Arlee Benton and niece, Felicia Driskle live in El Dorado.)

Vincent T. Davis, San Antonio Express-News

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Rance Olison’s desire to teach goes back to his days growing up in El Dorado, AR, where his mother, a single parent, taught him and his four sisters to work for what they wanted in life. She instilled in them that belief that as long as they followed that philosophy, someone would step up and help them.

Olison lived with these values as what he calls a "suitcase player" with the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs. Later, he passed his mother’s beliefs to students as a history teacher for 13 years at Sam Houston High School, as well as to players on the football field.

Known as "Coach O,", he used methods beyond textbooks, such as creating a history game five years ago for his students to play in class and use as a study guide for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or TAKS.

With the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s 44th president, Olison created a booklet titled "What the World Wants from Obama: Barack Obama’s Souvenir Historical Guide from 1619 – 2008," to teach his students the starting and ending points to a long chapter of American history.

The booklet is made up of five sections: the black national anthem; documents and amendments that had an impact on black Americans; presidents who had an impact; an African American timeline; and a biography of Barack Obama.

Olison said he though of developing the book after his wife brought home a pamphlet on Obama that a colleague had put together.

"I just want to get information out there that’s not in history books," Ollison says. "I wanted people to see what led to our newly elected president and people to understand the different documents and people who had a significant impact, both black and white."

Recently he shared a copy with his principal, Melonie Iglehart-Hammons.

"Coach Olison has been a walking, talking historian," Iglehart-Hammons says. "It’s not often that you have a resource that brings you all the way up to right now. I think that’s what’s so important about this."

Olison also hopes she will share the booklet with his students, whom he hasn’t seen for several months because of a major health crisis.

While working on a computer on the morning of June 24, he says, he felt nauseated and asked a student to tell the secretary to call an ambulance. The next thing he remembers is seeing the doors of the hospital where he underwent triple bypass surgery.

After six weeks of rehabilitation he started working on the booklet.

His close friends say only a major health crisis could keep Olison from his teaching.

"Rance is the kind of person that though his students won’t see him every day, he’ll still get by there," says Dr. Jerry William Dailey, Olison’s pastor of 10 years. "He wouldn’t allow his absence to have a negative effect. He loves the school and though he’s not on staff, he’s a part of that family."

Olison plans to retire because of his health, but though he’s no longer in the classroom, he’s says he’s still motivated to give back.

"When you’re about "we and us" instead of "I and me," you are going to always have that touch in your heart where you can give back," Olison says. "I take pride in knowing that Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Or Daisy Bates had an impact on events that led up to me being a teacher and teaching the way I was allowed to teach."

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