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Character and Diversity in East Texas

Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators

Date Posted: 8/11/2015

Tennis shoes, flip-flops, cowboy boots, hiking boots and high heels—that’s what you will need if you plan a trip through the regions I serve! You will find many areas with a small town feel but big city appeal. Touching Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana, Regions 5, 6, 7, 8, and 12 offer character and diversity. Museums, art, shopping, nature, state parks, festivals, wildlife, history, and beauty—these areas of Texas have it all!

Regions 6 and 12 fall into the area of Texas known as the Prairies and Lakes Region. Residents and visitors can enjoy water activities at one of the area’s many lakes or visit one of the amazing university campuses like Baylor or Texas A&M. Growing up, my family had a lake house at Lake Tawakoni, so I have very happy memories of boating, fishing, and skiing on this lake just east of the Dallas Metroplex. Many Native American tribes settled in several areas of the Prairies and Lakes Region for thousands of years; in fact, Waco is named after the Waco Indians. Dead armadillos are often seen on the side of the road in this region! The Prairies and Lakes region also boasts the “birthplace of Texas”—Washington-on- the-Brazos, where the constitution of the new Republic of Texas was adopted in 1836 and which served as the seat of the Republic of Texas’s government. This region also boasts the home of the world’s largest “flea market,” in Canton, which started more than 150 years ago.

Blazing a path to the south and eastern border of Texas is the Gulf Coast region, home to some of the best beaches in America, well known for its wildlife and natural beauty, and an outstanding destination for fishing enthusiasts. But did you know that this region is home to the largest alligator population in Texas? Port Arthur, known as a “birdwatchers delight,” is the gateway from Cajun country to Southeast Texas, and natives look forward to the annual Mardi Gras celebrations! The region holds some fascinating historical treasures. For instance, in 1901, near Beaumont, drillers were amazed when an oil gusher rose to a height of more than 150 feet—more oil than had ever been seen anywhere in the world! As a result, within three months, Beaumont’s population tripled!

The Piney Woods region, my home, is very scenic. Tyler is known as the Rose Capital of America, and visitors flock to my hometown in the spring to enjoy the azaleas. I love the back country, quiet, scenic roads with rolling hills and green countryside. Bordering Louisiana is Caddo Lake State Park, which houses the largest naturally formed lake in Texas and is also home to the world’s largest cypress forest. The Caddo Indians settled in this area, and their ancient burial mounds are still visible. Scattered throughout 12 counties and covering 634,912 federally owned acres, the Angelina, Sabine, Davy Crockett, and Sam Houston National Forests comprise the “national forests” of Texas in the Piney Woods. One of Texas’s oldest cities is Nacogdoches, settled by Native Americans, Spaniards, and Frenchmen, and where the first newspaper in Texas was published! This region offers some of the best down-home cooking and even championship golf!

Thank you for taking this virtual tour with me. If you don’t live here, on behalf of all of us who do, come and visit soon, now, you hear?

Mary Jo Burgess is ATPE’s regional representative for Regions 5, 6, 7, 8, and 12. Before beginning her career at ATPE, Mary Jo was the Texas PTA director of member services.