PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Capturing the attention of fifth graders inside a Portsmouth classroom, you’ll find Vanessa Hinton.

With more than 44 years in the industry under her belt, Hinton has taught generations of city students. Those years earned her the nickname of “Queen of Douglass Park,” where she currently resides.

In 1977, a young Miss Hinton walked into a classroom at just 20-years-old.

“That first day of school as a substitute teacher I got ready to check out and he said to me, ‘Miss Hinton, do you want a job?’ I said, ‘Yes, sir.’ And he said, ‘Well then Miss Hinton, you have a job.'”

Besides a few transitions between Portsmouth schools, she’s been at Douglass Park most of the time. That doesn’t mean she’s been teaching the same lessons on repeat.

“I’ve always been creative with my lesson, like today, we’re doing clouds,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. Back in her classroom, engaged students molded cotton balls to look like the different types of clouds they see in the sky. Shortly after, they took a trip outside to take a closer look.

When the COVID-19 pandemic rolled through, Hinton found herself back in the student seat herself, needing to learn things like Zoom to teach virtually.

“I didn’t want to be inadequate; I want to give them like the very, very best,” said Hinton.

Many teachers decided to leave the profession, and no one could fault them because of the increased difficulty and frustration. Ms. Hinton decided she would not be one of them and would keep pushing forward, just like she encourages her students to do every day.

With help from coworkers, she weathered the season with grace and then continued teaching generations of Portsmouth families.

“I do have a young lady in my class this year that I taught her mom. She said, ‘My mom said you taught her,’ I said, ‘I did?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Well wow. That is amazing. I love it.'”

Love for her students, her co-workers, for the building she spent most of her life in is what’s fueled her for generations. She’s hoping young educators are still able to find that same love to keep them going.

“You have to love what you do… and I do love what I do, I really do.”