Lesson Learned (May 12)

Serving on the Upshur County Schools Board of Education for 12 years has sharpened my leadership skills. I strive to be a lifelong learner, which is part of our Mission Statement: “The Mission for Upshur County Schools is to provide academic preparation, social responsibility, employability and a desire for lifelong learning.”

To receive a plaque from Dr. Sara Lewis-Stankus, Superintendent of Schools, in recognition of my service is like icing on a cake! Across the top is the word “leader” in bold print.

I appreciate the sentiment and the artistic message, which includes an open book design symbolizing the roots of a tree spread out for foundational strength. The artist’s rendering of the tree embodies strength, too. The trunk size is like our magnificent hardwoods gracing our central Appalachian Mountains. I remember the West Virginia Mountaineer saying: “From tiny acorns grow mighty oaks.”

The fruits look like students’ heads. How appropriate to see my highest goal portrayed, as I have no greater desire than growing creative thinkers in our seven grade schools, our middle school, our high school and our technical center. The 4-H four-fold development that so influenced my life includes the HEAD H as well as the HEART H, the HEALTH H and the HAND H.

In the upper story of the artistic tree are leaves waving in a breeze. My Board of Education passion from the beginning has been to “stir things up!” as Kindergarten Teacher Extraordinaire Helen Reger challenged me when I first announced that I would stand for election. That was a transformative moment when one of the persons I most admire on Planet Earth rushed across our church sanctuary to position her dynamic self in front of me. She waved her index finger looking intensely into my eyes, demanding that I “stir things up!” When I hike our mountain trails and see the treetops waving in the wind, I hear again our 1976 West Virginia Teacher of the Year giving me marching orders.

The years I served our combat veterans and their children and spouses, focusing on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and building the second-most-enrolled PTSD rehabilitation program in the American Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, made me a point man. A point man in combat is the first soldier on a patrol. Taking responsibility is one part of being a point man. Getting shot at in battle as a target can be deadly. But that goes with walking point. Getting criticism for positions taken for the sake of the children, while not deadly, has been painful at times.

The plaque that I will cherish has bullet points written around the tree. I am honored to see myself labeled with such words as “integrity,” “vision,” “caring,” “innovative,” with 37 total defining characteristics.

I finish the course of elected service by the end of June 2022. That does not mean my days of caring for the education of our children and grandchildren are over. I share the final sentiment of a truly great leader, Five-Star General Douglas MacArthur. In recognition of his status as one of the nation’s greatest living military leaders, leading us to victory in World War II, Congress asked him to address a joint session on April 19, 1951. General MacArthur’s speech, and my lesson learned, include his final lines in which he quoted an old army ballad: “Old soldiers never die—they just fade away.”


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