Viewpoint: Reflections on my time as an I-SS student, teacher and principal
BY AMY RHYNE
It has been an honor and blessing to serve the community that inspired me to give back based on the example they set for me as a young girl who happened to overcome the odds.
I began my education as a child in the Iredell-Statesville School System. I was blessed with a mom who loved me and a dad who taught me the importance of hard work as he led by example, supporting our family as a long distance truck driver. I knew my parents loved me, but love each other, they did not! For this reason, they could not provide your typical, happy home. For a few years, school became a much happier place for me than home. While at school, I could be a kid and escape the arguing, fighting and numerous other worries of a child from a broken home.
By the time I was ten, my parents made the final decision to divorce. My mom knew she had to focus on giving us the best opportunity possible. It takes a lot for a mom to recognize flaws and put her pride aside for her children. I don’t see this very often. Therefore, my dad stepped up to raise a pre-teen daughter alone. He quickly became a hero in my eyes. While he continued to work full time on the road, I was naturally forced to grow up quickly as I began to take care of my brother and things at home. Most people would use this experience to play the victim, make up excuses and blame their circumstances. Yet, I learned early that my parents’ life choices did not have to become my own path, thanks to so many teachers who offered me a happy place to escape the worries of home with love and joy every day. They had such a positive impact on me during a very crucial time in my life.
Over time, as I continued to grow up in the Iredell-Statesville School System, I realized the magnitude of what schools and educators offer children. It was about much more than reading, math and writing. While those are all definitely an important part of education…I learned love, passion and compassion were essential and must come first. Without positive relationships and purpose, education is nothing more than book knowledge.
It was through this level of understanding that I also realized how God’s plan was exactly as it should be. The life I had was no mistake and I would not change a thing if given the opportunity. My life and experiences revealed my purpose in life. The love I had been shown as a child helped me realize and understand exactly how I could give back to my own community in the same way. I wanted to become a voice and advocate for children. Some would say I listened to my heart…. However, I know it was much bigger than that!
Many people venture through life aimlessly and for various reasons never have the opportunity of understanding or fulfilling their purpose on this Earth. I have no doubt that I am called to educate and serve children. I have been afforded the opportunity to do what I love every day.
Within months after finishing college, I married my high school sweetheart and became a teacher at N.B. Mills Elementary School. Five years later, I became a new mother and for the first time I truly understood love on a different level. The faces in my classroom became more than students. They became another mother’s child. I only thought I understood this before this pivotal moment in my career.
Throughout various transitions in Title I Schools across I-SS, I learned that change begins at the end of your own comfort zone. Taking the first step has always been the toughest. However, the one constant I never lost sight of focused on asking the question in every decision, “How is that best for children?”
I have been fortunate to be surrounded by leadership and staff members who share my same passion for helping children overcome the odds. We were committed to giving more than we took as servant leaders, teaching children as times get more difficult and the world seems to get colder, be the warmth by simply offering a smile, a handshake or a hug.
As I move forward, serving on a larger scale, I will share the love and passion I was shown as a child in our community. I always remember and will forever be thankful for my journey in Iredell-Statesville Schools, particularly for the mentors along my journey who saw and continue to see more potential in me than I sometimes see in myself. As I have been given the privilege to continue my journey in Stanly County, I will remain an advocate for children and educators, taking with me the many lessons I have learned from this great community.
Amy Rhyne is the principal at East Iredell Elementary School. She is leaving that position in March for an administrative position with Stanly County Schools.