Do you remember when you first decided on the career you wanted to pursue in life?
Some of you may have changed occupations several times during your working career. Although I worked at many different jobs while in high school and college, I wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. My sisters would say that I wanted to be a teacher because I liked to tell other people what to do and, as a teacher, I would have an entire classroom of people to "boss around."
As children, my younger siblings and I would sit on the porch steps and “play” school and, of course, I always insisted on being the teacher. I delighted in telling them what to do, so I guess their opinion of me has some small grain of accuracy.
In spite of what they thought, however, that is not why I wanted to be an educator. I wanted to be a teacher because teachers have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of students. I like to think that when my students grow up they will change the entire world for the better! I want to think that I played a small role in their young lives. I have touched all occupations through instructing and guiding students in my classrooms.
For almost 35 years of my life, I have had the opportunity to live the life of a teacher. I have taught every grade except kindergarten and second. I figured principals kept moving me from grade to grade trying to find something that I could teach well. For several years, I had the opportunity to teach on the college level and work with other teachers who enrolled in graduate classes. It is the joy of working directly with children that I have missed as a superintendent. Nothing is more gratifying than having the opportunity to sit down and work with a child. In approximately three weeks, however, my life will change, as I will be retiring from the field of education.
The last 20 years of my career have been invested in Whitfield County Schools. When I first came to Whitfield County, I had no idea that I would come to love the people and the community as I have. I have said often that if you have never lived and worked anywhere else you can’t fully appreciate the resources and support for education that we have in Whitfield County. The generosity of the people in our community is not found in all places. The encouragement and assistance of business and industry has surpassed my highest expectations.
You expect parents to volunteer in our schools, but I have been amazed at the businesses who have allowed their employees to use work time to assist with everything from landscaping our school campuses to mentoring students. Even our local chamber of commerce is actively involved in helping our schools prepare our young people for successful careers through the Believe Greater Dalton education initiative. This community has risen to meet the needs of our schools each time that they have been asked to do so. Thank you, Whitfield County!
Of course, our schools are only as good as the teachers, administrators and support staff who work in them. The staff who work in our school system are the finest you would find in any system anywhere. They have many outstanding qualities, but I think the thing that makes them so special is that they genuinely care about our students and they want the best for them. Thank you, Whitfield County Schools employees!
Whitfield County has some of the brightest and most talented students in the state. They excel academically, as well as in extracurricular activities. The number of Whitfield County Schools students who have been recognized as scholars and as athletes is commendable. Thank you, parents, for allowing me the honor of having a small part in their education!
During my career in Whitfield County Schools, I have been blessed to work with the best school board a superintendent could have! These men and women give of their time and energy to ensure that our students have all of the advantages they deserve. There are no personal agendas on the Whitfield County Board of Education. Their dedication and professionalism have earned them recognition by the Georgia School Board Association as an Exemplary Board for the last two years. I don’t worry about the future of Whitfield County Schools with the high-quality board members that we have overseeing the direction of our schools. Thank you, board members, for your support of our students and of me as I carried out my duties as superintendent!
I have been truly blessed to have been given the opportunity to serve in the Whitfield County School system. I will miss all of you, but I will always carry precious memories of Whitfield County Schools in my heart!
We have shown that when we all work together, we can accomplish great things for our young people and for our entire community. We are #OneWhitfield!
Judy Gilreath is superintendent of Whitfield County Schools.