PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - At Bear Lakes Middle School, Betty Lou McCray Wells has become known for her tough and passionate approach to teaching.
"When I come into my classroom, I already feel the warmth of the children," she said.
The math teacher has been in the classroom for 44 years, and she's won endless awards. Some of her students say she has left such an impression that they still call her, years after leaving the classroom, to help their children with math homework.
Every teacher has a personal life, and this one is no different. And she collects an ordinary item in an extraordinary way.
Dozens of chairs sit in the perimeter of her yard.
"The community does come over, they look. People pass, they look. People from out of town, they look," she laughed.
Her home along Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard displays a collection of the tufted, the tiny and the triplicate.
"I never counted the chairs. Never! Now you've got something, and I'm a math teacher! I need to count my
Some are rusted, withering in the Florida sun and rain.
"As you can see, that chair over there is all tore up, but it means something to me," she said.
Wells says, while there are times company comes to visit in large numbers, there hasn't been a time when every chair is being used simultaneously.
She sees each chair as a piece of the archive of her ancestry.
"They just reminded me of my grandmother, my uncle, my aunt," she said.
Her grandmother lived to be 104-years-old, and started the tradition, Wells says. Every chair represents a person who inspired her in her career of teaching.
"The chairs to me, say, educate the mind, no matter who sits in it. Because at one time, we have all sat in one of these chairs," Wells said.