Ashley with Ms. PenceWhen she was in high school, BLF attorney Ashley Washington didn’t eat in the cafeteria. Instead, every day at noon, she grabbed her lunch and headed to the classroom of her favorite teacher: Mrs. Pence, the law instructor and mock trial coach.

Ashley wasn’t the only teenager who crashed Mrs. Pence’s classroom. As she remembers it, the entire mock trial team camped out there during lunch for two years straight. Mrs. Pence’s room was their anchor. It was the first place they met in the morning, the place they gathered to eat, and their port in a constant storm of typical high school drama.

“I had a rough time fitting in while in high school, and Mrs. Pence always stepped in to make me feel like I belonged,” Ashley remembers.

Ashley knew since she was a child that she wanted to be an attorney, and Mrs. Pence’s classroom was her first step on that journey. Though she didn’t realize it at the time, Ashley also made a lifelong friend and mentor.

This summer, she and Mrs. Pence reconnected after 17 years apart.

The Epic Road Trip Reunion

If the name “Mrs. Pence” sounds familiar, that might be because Ashley shared a bit about her in our August newsletter. After writing about Mrs. Pence as her all-time favorite teacher, Ashley realized it had been years since she’d talked to her. She reached out on Facebook, and Mrs. Pence responded!

They shared memories from high school and made plans to meet when Ashley was in Florida. There was only one problem: Ashley was visiting Miami, and Mrs. Pence was three hours away in Cape Coral. But even a road trip couldn’t get in the way of their reunion.

“She drove the whole three hours to have lunch with me!” Ashley says.

When they met, Ashley and her mentor both cracked up remembering their mock trial team, “The Pink Panthers,” and how they got their name.

The Story of The Pink Panthers

It was the day of an important mock trial competition. Tension was high, and after hours of watching other teams compete, Ashley realized something was missing. The winning teams of the past years always coordinated outfits and consistently scored higher in professionalism than those that didn’t — like hers.

“Ashley being Ashley, she wanted to win!” Mrs. Pence recalls. “We were a very good team, and she was smart enough to say, ‘We should up our game.’”

On the day of their trial, Ashley (the team captain) surprised her team with matching pink dress shirts. They all changed right there in the lobby before running inside to compete — and it worked!

“That was the first thing the judges recognized,” Ashley remembers. Their marks for professionalism soared.

From then on, Mrs. Pence required all of her mock trial teams to wear matching outfits, just like the original team she dubbed “The Pink Panthers.” In her final year of coaching, her team made it to the state competition and took first place in professionalism.

A Teacher’s Legacy

Mrs. Pence taught classes on law studies, constitutional law, legal research, international relations, and American wisdom and encouraging attitude made her one of the most important people in Ashley’s life, and she’s still a major influence today.

Without her, Ashley would not be the advocate she is today, and she definitely wouldn’t have become a mock trial coach for the University of Houston Law Center, where she puts Mrs. Pence’s lessons into practice.

“The thing about teaching is that hopefully you give something to students that lights a fire in them, and they go forth in their life,” Mrs. Pence says. “When I hear about what Ashley is doing, it makes me so happy. I’m happy for her and happy for the world.”

Our team here at BLF is incredibly lucky to have Ashley and even luckier that Ashley had Mrs. Pence. If you happen to be a teacher, thank you for your life-changing work!

Russell Button
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Dallas, Houston, and Midland Texas trial and personal injury lawyer dedicated to securing justice for clients.
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