by Terry Rogers
Gwen Fountain is still a familiar face around Milford School District despite the fact that she retired several years ago. Currently working as a substitute at Mispillion Elementary, Lulu M. Ross and Milford High School, Fountain spent 16 years at the district in various positions. She came to the district after retiring from First State Community Action where she worked for 27 years.
“I have done a lot of things,” Fountain said. “I worked at Nanticoke Hospital as a housekeeper right after high school. I did that for four years and then worked for International Playtex for eight years before going to First State Community Action. There, I was a teacher assistant as well as a social service worker with families and children. When I came to Milford, I handled detention and in-school suspension before I became a paraprofessional. I worked with Walter Harper, a student who was totally blind until he graduated and then began working with troubled girls. I retired from the self-contained classroom but am back again as a substitute.”
In addition to her many duties at the district, Fountain helped start the Bible Club at Milford High School in 1999. The club is still in existence today, meeting Mondays and Fridays plus once each month after school under the direction of Fountain, Jerome Harris and Brian Clark. Fountain finds the best part of her job is working with the students, especially those who may be struggling.
“I feel so many times they just need a listening ear,” Fountain said. “It is just a natural thing for me to do, to just listen and to be able to be involved. It is rewarding to reach out and strengthen them. Sometimes it is just a foot in the door that leads to their success. I was so blessed to work with Walter. Being his eyes and hands, I really, really enjoyed that but I also enjoyed being with all the other students as well. I feel it is important in a child’s life to extend yourself a little more to help them.”
Fountain also thinks that her exposure to various classroom settings throughout her district career was a benefit to teachers. She was able to see students in multiple settings and able to identify areas where a student may be struggling that just one teacher could not. She was also able to step in with conflict resolution before the conflict began because she could see things brewing in other classrooms.
“Probably the biggest challenge is the personalities you meet,” Fountain said. “You never know from day-to-day what you will be confronted with. It is very challenging when a child does not want to open up. It is a constant struggle to figure out how to reach them, how do you approach that. I am always so sad when I see children disinterested in classes. I am always looking for a way to get them excited, to find out what it is that interests them. The problem is you may never know what they are facing at home or what they are going home to.”
Fountain was born in Easton, Maryland, and raised in Bridgeville. She attended Phyllis Wheatley until eighth grade and graduated from William C. Jason, which is now Delaware Technical and Community College Owens Campus, in 1964. She has two children, Pamela James, a charge nurse at Bayhealth, who is married to Councilman Jason James, Sr., and a son, Brennon Fountain who is a Controller for the Department of Agriculture. Brennan’s fiancé, Jenell Conquest works at Harrison House. Fountain also has four grandchildren – Dr. Jason James, Jr., a professor at the University of Delaware, Joshua James, a personal trainer at Evolve who is married to Kelsey, an RN at Bayhealth, Toshi Reynolds, who works at Bayhealth and Adrionna Fountain who is in fifth grade at Ross.
Every summer, Fountain opens her swimming pool for children in her neighborhood. She explained that she got the idea when she would see young people swimming in areas on hot summer days that were not safe. After the death of DeeJion Fullman in the Mispillion River, she knew she had to do something. Each year, Mark and Sue Henderson of Pools & Spas Unlimited helps her get the pool open so young people can use it during the summer months.
“I will probably never truly retire,” Fountain said. “When I retired the last time, I was given a certificate that said, “Retired but still working for the Lord.” I am in ministry and attend Kingdom Light Family Ministry in Millsboro, serving with Apostle Helena M. Bailey and Pastor Hayward Bailey. I love what I do, I am used to moving. I don’t see myself just sitting around the house totally retired. I love to be out with younger people, to help them grow and let them achieve what they think they cannot do. I am thankful that I still have the strength and the health to do it.”