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Teaching by telling stories

.. Yarbrough's artwork' keeps students interested

By Staff
STORYTELLER Ruby Yarbrough is pictured with some of the books and stuffed animals she uses when she tells her stories. A longtime resident of Meridian, the retired school teacher's audiences include people of all ages, from preschool students to senior citizens. Photo by Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
Oct. 2, 2001
Ruby Yarbrough may be a retired teacher, but she is not sitting around taking it easy.
Yarbrough keeps a busy schedule as a storyteller, with audiences ranging from kindergarten and elementary school children to senior citizens.
The longtime Meridian resident raised three children, and taught school at Mt. Barton and West Hills elementary schools for more than 20 years. She also taught at night for 14 years at Meridian Community College.
However, there has not been a day that she wasn't in pain. Throughout her life, Yarbrough has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis
New start
Yarbrough finally retired from school teaching because of the rheumatoid arthritis.
A member of St. John Missionary Baptist Church, Yarbrough knew she would have plenty of church work to occupy her time. She was a member of the Wechsler Community Center and helped organize a tutoring program for students.
At some point, she was appointed program chairman of the center. Because the center was a culture and arts center, it was decided the group would try to do something with the arts.
The grant she was seeking paid $1,500. But Yarbrough didn't know what form of art she would be performing.
And so, Yarbrough went from being a retired teacher to an artist who is a storyteller. She pushes her students to write.
Her style
With a peaceful spirit, Yarbrough uses books, stuffed animals and poems to keep her audience's attention. She even lets members of the audience play parts in some of the stories.
In her lessons, she tries to impress on children what it was like to grow up in a time without televisions or CD players.
She stresses responsibility and character in her lessons, seeds she hopes will grow. She uses music and sings songs, including spirituals and sorrow songs.
Born in DeKalb, Yarbrough's family moved to Meridian when she was very young. At first, they lived at 2020 20th St., but moved to 20th Avenue near Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center, where she lives today.
She is a graduate of Harris High School and attended East End Elementary School and Wechsler Junior High. She was a member of the student council and the band.
After high school, she attended Harris Junior College and Alcorn State College before taking time out to care of her family. Later, she returned to school and graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1971.
Today, she is a member of the Mississippi Artist Roster. She helps teachers use storytelling as a teaching method in their classrooms. In fact, she spent Thursday and Friday with classes at West End Elementary School.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3217, or e-mail him at