GILBERT — Gilbert Elementary School says goodbye to their principal, Phyllis White, who is retiring after 32 years of teaching and administration.
White began her teaching career in 1982 at GES as a first grade teacher and remained in that position for nearly 10 years before teaching for a year at Cline Grade School in Gilbert Creek, W.Va. After teaching a Cline Grade, White returned to GES as the assistant principal for the next weight years.
“My favorite time during my career was teaching first grade,” said White. “That is when students are learning to read and you can see all of the changes taking place and just how far they progress. And of course, being the principal here has also been a favorite of mine.”
White is one of eight children and attended Baileysville High School. She was the first in her family to attend college and did so at Marshall University. After completing her bachelors degree, White continued her education and pursued her masters degree.
“After I taught first grade for about ten years, I knew it was time to step out and do something different,” said White.
White has been honored in Mingo County with many awards, recognition’s and accolades including Gilbert Elementary School Teacher of the Year for 1999-2000. She was designated by the Office of Education Performance Audits as a Distinguished Principal for 2014-2015. During her time as principal, she has secured more than $150,000 in grant funds for the school system.
“Getting named teacher of the year is probably the award I am most proud of,” said White. “And the RESA 2 principal of the year. That was an honor and a huge surprise for me.”
During White’s time as principal at GES, the school has also been awarded with many recognition’s including being named a Catalyst school in W.Va. According to White, none of it would have been possible without her staff.
“The biggest lesson I have learned through my administration career is how important it is for you to make your teachers part of your leadership,” said White. “You have to work as a whole team to see your school improve.”
While White says she is excited about retirement and what is to come, she is also very sad to see it end.
“I’m not just leaving a school and staff,” said White. “I am leaving the place I have worked so hard to build, staff members who have made it very easy to do and students who make it all worth it. You spend so much time together in this building that they become your second family and sometimes they even come before your own family. I know my staff very well here.”
It has been thirty two years since White walked into a classroom to teach for the first time but according to her, thirty two years have flown by.
“You look in the mirror and you think, has it really been 32 years,” added White. “You know it has been but it truly doesn’t feel like it. I still feel like I am that same person on the inside but I know this is suppose to be a happy time. It is a happy time.”
Thirty two years means White has watched nearly three generations of students enter and leave Gilbert Elementary.
“It is so special to see your students graduate high school and then in a few years you see a child that looks just like a student you use to have and you realize that that is because they are the child of a student you used to teach,” said White. “It really is special to see how everything just starts all over again.”
White beams with pride as she talks again about her staff of teachers and how easy they have made building up GES into what it is today.
“My teachers here are the most passionate group of teachers,” said White. “They give so much and not just them but our custodians, our cooks, our aides and everyone else gives 100 percent to this school even some going above and beyond that.”
White says that she is looking forward to spending more time with her husband, Delegate Harry Keith White who has been there with her throughout it all.
“I want to thank my husband for listening to my “debrief” in the evening for thirty two years. He has played a huge role in my career, always giving me advice and helping me with all of the grants that we have secured for our school,” said White. “I also want to thank my PTO because they are amazing. They do so much for our students here and it really warms my heart to see how much they do. This has been a wonderful career for me and I hope I have touched many lives.”
Assistant principal Mark Dean will be taking White’s position as principal after the Christmas break and White wanted to leave him with a few words of advice.
“Value our teachers here and listen to them when they want to tell you something,” said White. “Our teachers are so passionate, so driven and care so deeply that anything they want to do in their classroom or the school needs to be heard and considered. Know them on a personal level and bring them in as part of your team.”
Madalin Sammons is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. Madalin can be reached at [email protected]