Vidalia BOE Honors Retiring Teachers
The Vidalia Board of Education recognized the teachers retiring from the school system during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, May 9.
“There is 338 years [combined] of commitment and experience towards public education in our community sitting in this room – that’s pretty incredible when you think about that,” Superintendent Garrett Wilcox remarked. “Whether you’re a bus driver, or you’ve been in the cafeteria, or you’ve been a teacher for 30 years, it is all about trying to take care of the kids in our community and trying to make them better people and better citizens, and that takes a lot of energy to be able to pull that off as long as all of you have.”
Vidalia High School Teachers Beverly Rivers — English, Joy Collins – Social Studies, and Sharon Hodge — Math were all honored during the meeting for their years of service to the school system. Rivers and Collins have each spent 30 years teaching at Vidalia High School, while Hodge has served within the school for 18 years.
“You cannot replace this many years of experience,” Vidalia High School Principal Bruce Mulkey emphasized. “This is going to hit the high school very, very hard. In addition to that, each of them is very unique in their own way. I have only been there a very short period of time, but got to know them very well in that time.”
Mulkey then spoke on each teacher individually. “I will tell you something about Mrs. Hodge – she had the opportunity to retire last year, but had a very strong relationship with a couple students in our building who have some significant needs, but she felt strongly that she wanted to come back and spend one more year with them to get them across the finish line. She came back and worked with those students, and they will be graduating this year. She agreed to do that on a parttime basis, and I believe that says a lot about who she is as a person and we have been very fortunate to have her,” he said.
He continued, “Mrs. Collins is one of the first teachers I had the opportunity to meet when I got to the high school. She is passionate about her content, she is passionate about working with kids, and not only that, she also will be quick to hold you accountable for what you agree to do. She has been a huge asset to me for that reason – she has no problem telling me how it is, and she has helped me make that transition to Vidalia High School, and I’m forever grateful for that.”
“Mrs. Rivers also wears many hats in our building,” Mulkey shared. “In addition to teaching, she also works with our Writers Incorporated, and they do a very, very good job outside of the classroom. I have also relied on Mrs. Rivers this year to help me navigate some things that I just needed to learn how they worked at Vidalia High School. She was very gracious and shared some things with me, and has given me some valuable advice.”
He concluded, “ We are going to miss y’all. There is no way we will ever be able to replace y’all. Thank you for everything you’ve done at our school.”
Beverly Rivers spoke further on her experience within the Vidalia City School System. “I have several favorite memories from my years here,” she emphasized. “First was my first year here, when J.R. Trippe Middle School was being built and 8th graders were housed here in this building with the 9th through 12th graders. I taught 8th grade, I taught 9th grade, 10th grade, so it was wild, but I enjoyed every moment of it. I appreciated it and the kids.”
“Another great memory is in 1998 when students asked me to sponsor a poetry club,” she continued. “It was student-founded, student-centered, and I agreed because it was in my content area. Since 1998, Writers Incorporated has been going strong – membership waned and grew over time, but I really love being here for the kids and giving those that love to write a place and forum to share their writings – not carrying it in a notebook or hiding it under the bed – where they can receive some constructive criticism for their thoughts on paper.”
Rivers also shared that one of her fondest memories is having her daughter at the school with her during high school. “It was precious to have her with me. That’s the main thing – having a school system where I could raise my daughter and get her educated in the matter that I saw fit, and Vidalia City Schools was that fit for us,” she shared.
She concluded by stating she would miss the school, but was looking forward to her life after retirement. Rivers emphasized her hope that the Writers Incorporated organization would continue to thrive, and encouraged all aspiring teachers to consider Vidalia City Schools when searching for their employment.
Sally D. Meadows Elementary School Sally D. Meadows Elementary School Teacher Pamela Braddy was also recognized for her 29 years of service to the school system.
“The theme for tonight is ‘bittersweet,’ and that’s always because you have somebody who has been in education a long time – they’re experienced in your building, they can show the young teachers what to do and help mentor them to help them be successful – and that describes Mrs. Pam Braddy,” Sally D. Meadows Elementary School Principal Scott Stephens explained.
He continued, “We have a lot of young ladies [teaching] in 2nd grade, and she is seen as the elder stateswoman in 2nd grade. I know without a doubt that I can pair a young lady who’s a first-year teacher with her and that she’ll nurture her and guide her and make her successful. The young teachers look up to her and use her as a guiding force.”
“It is hard to replace those years of experience because of who you get next year, they won’t have that same feeling, or those same powers of nurturing and guidance that she adds to the faculty. Without a doubt, we wish her the best. It is a happy, joyous occasion that she is going to move on and start her next phase in life,” Stephens concluded.
“Thank you for all the years, and for all the little hearts that have been in my room and their families – they have truly been a blessing,” Braddy commented on her retirement. J.D. Dickerson Primary School J.D. Dickerson Teachers Angie McKie, Belinda Warnock, Renae Canady, and Mary Morris were all presented with framed certificates for the time which they have spent at the school. The group has 117 combined years of experience among them, as Warnock has served 33 years, Morris has been an educator for 31 years, McKie has taught for 30 years, and Canady has been in the education field for 27 years.
“We have 4 ladies to honor tonight who are just amazing people – they make J.D. Dickerson [Primary School] the place to be,” J.D. Dickerson Primary School Principal Brandon Boston shared. “These ladies are amazing, they make my job easy. When you think of J.D. Dickerson, you think of these faces.”
Boston told attendees that in preparation for the recognition, he had spoken with the retiring teachers’ colleagues at the school and asked them to use one word to describe each retiree. These fellow teachers told Boston that Belinda Warnock was dedicated, while Angie McKie was kind. Mary Morris was said to be passionate, and Renae Canady was described as being free spirited.
“You guys are amazing, you’ve been great to your grade level and school, and we wish you guys the best,” Boston concluded.
Morris spoke on the event. “Working all these years with the ladies in this room and with this system, with my children coming to school here, it was just a very good situation throughout all these years. This is like family. It’s bittersweet because all these people that I work with, I love. It was a hard decision,” she said. School Nutrition and Bus Drivers School Nutrition retirees Sherie Washington, Jennifer Tang, and Lorance M. Johnson were recognized for their dedication to the school system during the years of their employment. Washington has spent 33 years working in the cafeteria at Vidalia High School, while Tang has worked the past 8 years at J.D. Dickerson Primary School.
“I know these ladies may not have been here the longest out of anyone, but they are awesome and dedicated. I’ve known them for the entirety I have been here because I ate with them every day even before I was School Nutrition Director,” Denise Parson explained. “They have been awesome. They look after our students and our children, they make sure that our manager knows about problems with the kids. It has been a pleasure to work with y’all.”
J.D. Dickerson Cafeteria Manager Sue Sullivan added to Parson’s recognition of the retirees, as she talked to attendees about not only Jennifer Tang’s work ethic, but also her kindness, praising her for helping a new student who knew very little English by translating to the child in Mandarin.
School Nutrition Director Parson highlighted Sherie Washington’s kindness in her work, sharing that she received a hug daily from Washington when she saw her. Parson also spoke highly of Johnson’s dedication to the school, as she informed attendees that Johnson was diligent to both drive a school bus and work in the lunchroom.
Lorance Johnson was honored for her 35 years of service not only within the Vidalia High School lunchroom, but also while driving a bus for the school system. According to Johnson, she began driving a bus for the school from the first day that buses were introduced to the system. “I’m the only original driver left,” she explained.
Transportation Director Robert Taylor praised Johnson for her work, sharing that she was reliable. “She rarely missed a day, and if she was going to have to miss one, I knew weeks in advance. She’s done a wonderful job for us,” he remarked.
VHS Cheerleader Recognition The 2022-2023 Vidalia High School Game Day Cheerleading Squad was recognized for their recent State Championship victory, marking their second consecutive Game Day Cheer State Championship since beginning the program.
Coach Ann Michele Toole explained to the Board that Game Day Cheer differs than normal cheerleading competitions because it is not planned and does not involve tumbling or other acrobatic skills. “The competition calls out a game situation – whether it be offense or defense – and the girls have to use cheers and signage to engage the crowd appropriately for that situation,” she said.
Vidalia High School Principal Bruce Mulkey also commented on the girls’ success. “You may not know this, but both of my older daughters cheered, so I spent several years in Columbus watching [the] Sectionals [Cheer Competition] and watching [the] State [cheer competition],” he told the cheerleaders. “What always impressed me from a distance – I was in Northwest Georgia but had grown up here, so Vidalia always had a special place – [was] to watch you guys come into the Coliseum and watch you perform and to see you in the maroon and gold. Even though I wasn’t a member of the community, it was always awesome to watch – first-class all the way, you were always prepared, and to be honest with you, if you weren’t from Vidalia [High School] and were competing against you guys, it was a little bit intimidating.”
He continued, “This is about a state championship, but we also want to recognize what you have done as a program. That standard of excellence has been set, down to the details – the details are important, that’s something our coaching staff emphasizes, and it pays off.”