Raye Joyner is well known as a community leader and longtime Citrus County primary school teacher who served on numerous boards and organizations.
Joyner, raised in Highlands County, speaks softly — but effectively — and is well respected in Crystal River and throughout Citrus County.
“I always wanted to be a teacher since I was in elementary school,” Joyner said. “All of my family were teachers except two. One became a builder and the other was a postman.”
During segregation, black people went to their schools while whites had their own schools. But even though kids were segregated, many black and white children did play together, whether they were allowed to or not.
Joyner received her teaching degree from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.
Back then, she marched in peaceful demonstrations for “rights for black people” and was even jailed once for participation.
Blacks had many restrictions during that time. While in college, “We couldn’t go across the street to Florida State University because we were black.”
She became a teacher at age 23 and was selected to go to Crystal River by her college.
“I didn’t want to go there because it was such a small town back then. Rev. Cunningham couldn’t even find Crystal River on the map,” she said.
At that time, Mrs. O. Brown was the supervisor of instruction. She suggested that Joyner take the job offered in Crystal River, but Joyner still wasn’t interested.
Finally, Brown called Joyner’s mother, Marguerite Jones, who previously taught in Highlands County. Brown said, “If your daughter is anything like you, I want her.”
“OMG, I thought,” said Joyner.
Her mother arranged for her to come to Crystal River. At the time, there were no street lights, only one red light; no street signs; not many businesses, and only one bank.
There was a movie theater on Citrus Avenue, though. “Blacks sat upstairs while the white people sat downstairs,” she said.
“I taught one year in Crystal River at the six-room black school — the George Washington Carver School” (where Crystal River Primary is today), she said. Then, she taught one year in Sanford, in Seminole County.
William Robinson came at the same time as Joyner and became the last principal of the all-black George Washington Carver School in Crystal River when desegregation finally happened.
Now, black and white children began attending the same schools and restrictions were lifted in education, the military and for housing.
Mrs. O. Brown asked Joyner to come back to Citrus County to teach kindergarten at Crystal River Primary School when Ethel Winn was the principal. Over the years at CRPS she worked under principals Ben Branch and Bennye Milton.
“We always worked hard; even harder because we were black and had to prove that we were qualified to do the job,” she said.
Joyner’s goal was always “to do whatever it took to teach a child, leaving no child behind.”
“I never had to fail a student because, back then, I could take them out of ‘specials’ and tutor them when necessary; but today you can’t do that,” she said. “Today, you can’t take a child out of “specials.”
Joyner has been and still is very active in the community. She’s active in her church, Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church, serving on the usher board; on the board of the George Washington Carver Community Center; helps with the Martin Luther King Day Celebration; is a member of the African American Club; served on the Civitan Club, the Boys & Girls Clubs, Crystal River High’s Enhancement Board, on Crystal River’s City Zoning Board of Adjustments; and helped with the Spot Family organization.
There have been many changes over the years with the addition of computers and many students today use tablets instead of books.
“I retired in 1995.” Once one retires, she said, you must wait a year before going back into teaching. She later became an Exceptional Student Education (ESE) substitute teacher at Crystal River High School for 10 years. Today, she still subs at CRHS.
“Many students today are growing up without having structured discipline and are not being taught to be respectful. There’s not enough communication. Instead, their cell phones have become their best friend,” Joyner said.
A lot of parents were helpers to Joyner over the years.
“In all my years of teaching at CRPS, I was fortunate to have lots of parent helpers. One of my parents, Donna Welgelt, stayed on as my helper in the classroom and for field trips even after her child moved on to middle school.
“When a child mastered a skill, it brought me the greatest joy,” she recalled. “I do love teaching. I think that is why I’m still a sub today.”