A batch of sixth-graders at West Lincoln Middle saw a side of District Judge Anna Foster last week that many in her court room don’t, as she delved into discussions on Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, the Twilight Saga, her children and how she decided on her career.
Caroline Cason’s Reading Connections class has been focusing on the importance of reading in the careers of local officials during December’s “Leaders for Readers” month in the elective course.
The students chose area authority figures whom they considered to be the pillars of the county, recipients ranging from 12-year-old Emily Baker’s father — a Marine — to police officers and firefighters.
Justin Lynch, 11, an aspiring “professional hunter,” was anxious to meet Foster — a judge in Cleveland and Lincoln counties — and ask her a few of his prepared questions he wrote in class the day before.
“It’ll be nice to meet her,” Justin told the Times-News last week. “I haven’t met a judge in my whole life.”
Justin shared his favorite reading material — a hunting magazine – and said he is an avid hunter himself, who goes out looking for game with family members when he isn’t reading about the sport. The group of 10 took turns introducing themselves, summarized a book they are currently reading or one they like, and discussed what they hope to be “when they grow up.”
The answers were as diverse as the speakers, some students hoping to become veterinarians, while another preferred the idea of handling money and pursuing a job as a bank employee. Youth in the age range just shy of their teenage years, Foster was impressed with the group and their responses.
Nonfiction and fictional works lined the West Lincoln classroom, as the mother of three broke down the branches of government, defined legal terms she uses every day, and dug deeper into her profession.
The children took turns asking, “How many cases do you handle a day?” and “How long does a trial last?” among other questions concerning aspects of her job that intrigued them, but that they didn’t quite understand.
Foster typically deals with cases involving children, such as custody hearings and truancy court trials, with incidents sometimes involving students in the age group of those before her last Thursday, she noted.
“I love speaking with y’all, because I affect children your age daily,” Foster told the group.
Wide-eyed and silent, the 11- and 12-year-olds, listened to the judge explain how important education is to her, and that even today she continues to learn something new; it never ends, you never stop learning, she said.
The recently re-elected judge asked her attentive audience to make a pact with her that they would continue going to school and would try their best in school, promising them they will succeed at whatever they try if they work hard and the desire is there.
The “What made you decide to become a judge” inquiry grabbed her attention most, though, and visibly changed her demeanor in the room, as she smiled and remembered her own sixth-grade year and her trip to the Washington, D.C. It gave her chills just thinking about that experience and the way she felt when she was there, she laughed.
Foster’s father was a lawyer, and the profession was something she had wanted to do since she was a child, but it wasn’t until she was approached about a judging opportunity that she thought to give it a try.
After Foster’s introduction and crash course on the legal system in the United States, she reflected on her own struggles with reading — not one of her strong suits at first, she admitted. Though she doesn’t have much time for recreational reading, between court hearings and raising a family, she vowed to do more of it in the new year, and enjoys reading what her kids are interested in, such as the Harry Potter series and The Hunger Games trilogy.
The Richmond native stressed the need for reading in any occupation, and how happy she was that the small group before her enjoyed the skill they would need later in life.
“In this day, your education is more important than it has ever been; no one can ever take that away from you,” Foster promised. “You can lose possessions, people, things, whatever, but what you get out of that book you’re reading, and your diploma, those are yours.”