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Actor and singer Reba McEntire has been a country music superstar for decades. But while she was still early in her childhood, she was an enthusiastic student in Kiowa public schools in Oklahoma.

McEntire recalled one “special milestone” from those early years that was on par with wedding days and some of life’s other significant celebrations. What moment kept an elementary-aged McEntire warm with “sheer excitement”?  

Reba McEntire poses in a white dress holding flowers for a made-for-TV movi
Reba McEntire | CBS/Getty Images

The 1st day of school meant lined-up clothes and dressing by the stove

As McEntire recollects in her book, Reba: My Story, one of her most memorable “special milestones” in life was her very first day of school in 1961. Kiowa schools didn’t have kindergarten then, so she went straight to first grade.

Having two older siblings who knew the routine probably helped in being prepared for that important day. An outfit was laid out to wear in a toasty spot for her pre-school dressing.

“On that big morning, my shoes, clothes, and the rest of my attire were placed neatly in a line on the back of the couch in the living room so that I could dress close to the old brown heating stove,” she shares. “I wanted to be warm while I slipped from my pajamas into my clothes.”

While the soon-to-be performer was planning on feeling a chill while changing into her school clothes that morning, she notes the “sheer excitement” of it all helped create some heat.

Reba McEntire’s 1st grade teacher was ‘the nicest woman in the world,’ but she wasn’t her 1st teacher

Notably, McEntire points out her mother was her “original teacher” on Twitter, but notes in her book that her first public school teacher was Mrs. Eula Kelly. Luckily, she was already familiar with Kelly as her older siblings’ teacher.

“I thought she was one of the nicest women in the world,” she writes. Her book collaborator tracked her first grade teacher down and talked to her about the “Fancy” singer. Following that meeting, McEntire was “thrilled” to learn her former educator was a delighted fan, of course.

She shares that Kelly was about 90 at that point and “smiled and laughed” in recalling her past student. When asked what she thought when she saw the icon on television, Kelly said, “I’m so proud.”

“Then she began to cry, bless her heart,” McEntire declares.      

Reba McEntire kicked off her iconic performing career in childhood at her 1st grade Christmas program


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Though her first grade teacher left a lasting impression, McEntire says she had another big moment that school year — the beginning of her performing career. A Christmas program in the high school gym “marked the first time [she] ever sang behind a microphone.”

Young McEntire caroled “Away in a Manger” and thought she “must not have done too badly” as she ended up with an even greater challenge in the second grade. That year, the 7-year-old singer belted out “He” at the high school commencement. It was “pretty scary” for her, but she says it was also “exciting to be the center of attention of so many teenagers that [she] looked up to.”    

Of course, those early performances seemingly helped prepare the singer for life as a beloved entertainer. After breaking into the country music industry in the ’70s, she’s experienced consistent success since. In January of 2022, McEntire kicked off a twelve-show tour.