The calm French teacher stood at the front of the class, her hair impeccable and pulled into a twist.
She never raised her voice to bring the room to order. She didn't turn from the blackboard.
Instead, Vivian Rouson uttered a phrase that quelled talk from even her most boisterous students at Lakewood High School.
"Taisez-vous!" (Rough translation: Shut up)
It worked every time.
"She kept control without ever making it unpleasant, arduous," said Michelle Genz, a Vero Beach newspaper editor who was in Mrs. Rouson's class in the late 1960s. "There was a power in her manner. … She was vivacious. I loved her."
Mrs. Rouson, a longtime Pinellas educator and mother of five, died Monday in Washington, D.C. She was 83.
Vivian Verly Reissland Rouson was born July 18, 1929, in New Orleans. She was one of the first black teachers to teach in the newly integrated Pinellas school system in the mid 1960s.
Both Mrs. Rouson and her late husband earned advanced degrees. So did their children — three daughters and two sons.
When it came to discipline, she used the same technique in the classroom and at home.
"Mother had a knack for explaining her anger through her whispering," said state Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, Mrs. Rouson's eldest son.
Mrs. Rouson moved to Washington, D.C., in 1990.
This summer, for the first time in more than 20 years, Mrs. Rouson and all of her adult children and 17 grandchildren gathered in St. Petersburg to celebrate her birthday.
A few months later, her daughter noticed her mother's eyes were yellowish. Doctors diagnosed pancreatic cancer Nov. 2. She had surgery a day after Thanksgiving.
Several days later, she started to decline. And on Monday, Mrs. Rouson died.
"She made her peace," Darryl Rouson said. "It's how she wanted it."
Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643.