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When I returned from a backpacking trip in California, I learned that my mentor and longtime friend Glynn Calahan had died. She was elderly and burdened with health problems. When I saw her at church on our last visit to El Dorado, we hugged, and she asked about my daughters, Christen and Anna. I will miss Mrs. Calahan very much, but am thankful that I was able to be a teacher in her school.
Below is an excerpt from something I wrote a couple of years ago about Glynn.
In the early 1990s, I applied to teach elementary music in El Dorado while I worked on my master’s degree in counseling. It turned out to be one of the best career moves I’ve ever made.
Since Glynn had known me since childhood, I assumed we’d have a 30-minute “courtesy interview.” I was wrong about that. We spent two hours together. She asked some challenging questions and shared her heart for education. By the end of our interview, I had a much better understanding of her love for students and her philosophy about teaching and learning.
What followed were two of my favorite years in education. I began to think of Glynn as a mentor, watching everything she did. I’d never considered becoming a school principal until after seeing the positive impact she had on students and teachers.
Later, when I became a principal, I tried to be just like her and often noticed similar practices. I had my white notebook (now Chromebook) with students’ test scores and for my observations in classrooms. I had benches placed in the hallways for mini-conferences with students about their learning. I visited classrooms a lot. As a beginning principal, I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I visited classrooms often like I’d seen Glynn do, and there was value in that.
There is no way to measure the influence of Glynn Calahan. It continues through her students and teachers today, and for years to come.
Forgive the shameless self-promotion but I wanted to post this so friends, relatives, and especially my mom would have access to it. It is pulled from the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators Newsletter. Michelle spent a good portion of a day visiting our campus and then wrote this feature. I appreciated her positive writeup.
By Michelle Hostetler, Communications Specialists for Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators
When Jim Warnock was hired as an elementary principal in 1993, he knew he needed three things: church pews in each hallway, a notebook, and time in classrooms. He had watched his mentor, Glynn Calahan, use these to become a successful principal who made a difference in the lives of her students. Ms. Calahan had a church pew on each floor of her school where she would sit with her notebook that contained information on her students (test scores, etc.). She would visit with students there praising them for good work and, when needed, encouraging them to do better. Mr. Warnock followed in her footsteps, purchasing old pews from a neighborhood church and proceeded to use the techniques Ms. Calahan used, including spending time in each classroom.
Jim started his career in education as a music teacher. His love of music started in high school where the teachers and students had a strong bond. His teachers’ hands-on approach to instruction was an inspiration to him. He knew that he wanted to go to college for music and he “didn’t think that being a rock star was going to work out” so he went into music education. Music continues to be part of his life as he plays drums in his church orchestra — maybe still working on that rock star dream??
Music isn’t Jim’s only passion. He also enjoys writing and photography. He uses his writing skills to communicate regularly with parents and staff through newsletters and memos. He has also had three articles published in the Urban Magazine, based in Fort Smith. He blogs and posts to a Facebook page for the Lake Alma Trail and the Ozark Highland Trail Association, where he serves as a board member. His love of hiking and the outdoors was evident when asked what he would be doing if not in his current position and his response was “hiking the Appalachian Trail.” Beautiful outdoor pictures line the wall of the hallway outside his office, all which were taken by Jim.
The respect the Alma Intermediate School staff has for Jim was easy to see while visiting the school. And his appreciation of the staff was also visible. He noted that he has an excellent assistant principal, Suzy Ferguson. He knows that he can rely on her to take care of things at school when his out. That allows him to participate in professional organizations such as AAEA, where he is a very active member.
“I would like to be remembered as someone who was committed to his students, teachers, and his family. Someone who continued to learn and grow. I want others to remember me the way I remember one of my mentors, Glynn Calahan. She recognized and reinforced the strengths in others and helped them build on those strengths.” – Jim Warnock
What is your favorite thing about your job?
“Helping facilitate professional growth which then has an impact on students.”
What is the most challenging part of your job?
“Helping teachers navigate change and finding time to have conversations on deep knowledge in teaching and learning.”
What do you enjoy doing in your time off?
“Hiking and photography.”
Advice for someone considering a similar career:
“Look at the reason you want to do it. If you are aspiring to be a principal and you are not excited about teaching, you should probably do something other than education. I also always advise an aspiring principal to check out the superintendent before taking a job. The key to success as a principal is the superintendent you get to work for.” Jim commented that he has had the opportunity to work with three awesome superintendents: Bob Watson, Charles Dyer, and David Woolly.
What is something you are proud of?
“I am proud to know that I am the principal of a school that I wish I could have attended when I was a kid.”
If you weren’t in your current position, what would you be doing?
“Hiking the Appalachian Trail.”
Where do you see yourself in five years?
“Still trying to figure out how to be a good principal.”
“When in doubt, take a step.”
One word to sum you up:
“Jim Warnock represents what a great principal should be. He is first and foremost the instructional leader in his school. The great majority of his day is spent actively engaged with teachers and students in the learning process. And the results show!”
— David Woolly, Alma Superintendent
“That-a-way, Bo!” Those words meant a lot to this freshman, unsure about his chances of success in college. The memory of his high school counselor’s hesitancy about his college plans were still fresh and caused strong feelings of doubt.
Now, with the words “That-a-way” from the greatest musician he’d ever been around, the possibility of success seemed real – he was going to make it! There were some discouraging times during college, but this professor helped many students perform better than they ever thought possible.
He set high expectations and was relentless in holding to them. He had the ability to move toward goals in spite of distractions. He was a learner with his students even as this great man taught them. He loved his work with such enthusiasm that the lines between work and play were often blurred.
Now, as a school principal and teacher, I am thankful for his influence. He never set out to provide instruction on how to be a principal, but he taught many lessons and gave me confidence that I benefit from today.
When I am doing my most satisfying work, I sometimes feel like he’s looking over my shoulder saying, “That-a-way, Bo!” There is no greater satisfaction than knowing you have done your best. Mr. Wendell Evanson, my band director at Henderson State University, taught me this lesson. I hope we can help every child learn the joy of work and a job well done.