Beatrice Payne, who taught generations of students at Sparks Middle School in Baltimore County, passed away at age 106 this week.

Payne grew up in Baltimore County and graduated from Bowie High School in 1926. She went on to attend Bowie State University (then called Bowie Normal School)–she was the school’s oldest living graduate–from which she earned a teaching certificate in 1928. She went on to get another degree from Morgan State University. “I just thought teaching was the grandest thing, and that was what I was going to do,” Payne recalled last year. According to her obituary, Payne was also the first black administrative assistant in Baltimore County.

Over the course of her 40-year career in education, Payne worked as a teaching principal, special education teacher and special education department supervisor in Baltimore County schools.