They still remember the day in 1974 when they responded to that newspaper ad: “School on remote island needs a husband-wife teaching team.” Soon-to-be-married Jim and Carol Alberto answered the ad in The State newspaper and embarked on their wildest adventure before their marriage even began.
Daufuskie Island is a 15-square-mile barrier island off the coast of South Carolina. Its name means “sharp feather” in the language of the Muscogee, the first inhabitants of the land. In 1974, Daufuskie had a meager population of 85, most of whom had little or no formal education and one-fourth of whom were under the age of 14.
For some years leading up to the arrival of the Albertos, the island had been unable to keep a teacher for more than nine months. Therefore, the school district thought maybe a married couple would fare better in the rugged, lonely conditions that the job required. And they weren’t wrong.
When Jim arrived on the island, he had recently completed his USC bachelor's degree in history education. His first “home” on Daufuskie was a small hunting cabin featuring a shallow water well, a rusted-out bathtub … “not very chic,” Jim says.
Carol would join him four months later, after graduating with her degree in math education from USC that December. When she arrived, the school district barged a new mobile home over to the island for the young couple; still not extravagant, though it did include running water and electricity.
But they made the leap. They were inspired to be teachers at a young age and knew the importance and value of a quality education. “There were only about two or three high school graduates on the island, so we were totally from the other side of the moon,” says Jim. But they were there to change that.
“Of all the kids we taught, none of their families had books in the home or written materials. They just weren’t interested in reading, and it was just so strange. I never knew anybody who didn’t want to read!” says Carol.
But about a year into their teaching, a third grader from Maryland came to live with his great grandparents on the island, and he came to the school and asked Carol if he could read to the students. Of course, Carol said yes, and the students were enamored by him. “When they saw him read on his own, I was like, ‘Oh, they didn't know that they could do that, too.’”
Jim is a natural storyteller. His life is full of vivid stories — good ones, tough ones and unexpected ones — and that’s why his publisher and friend encouraged him to write a book.
Jim and Carol’s nine-year teaching adventure is penned beautifully in their memoir, Daufuskie Daze. The book tells enthralling stories of the many lessons they learned as teachers on the island — tales of pluff mud critters, fellow hard-working islanders and educational milestones, for both them and the children they were teaching. “I got my graduate degree on Daufuskie,” Jim says.
Just as Daufuskie Daze was written to tell the stories of Daufuskie Island before, during and after the Albertos’ teaching stint, the Albertos’ insurance gift for the College of Education tells an incredible story of education, devotion and adventure while at USC — and how that education inspired them to embark on the greatest adventure of their lives.
"Carol and I spent two-thirds of our teaching careers in Hilton Head and Bluffton," Jim says. "But we will always be known as the Daufuskie teachers."