I can still see the first time I met him.
I was a young woman having taught one year of first grade in upstate New York.
And he was the principal.
It was only a few days before the opening of school that year.
My heart beat furiously as he interviewed me for the position of first grade that day.
Would I get it?
Would I possibly have a chance?
Everything inside me said no.
As I sat there on that hot August morning my confidence was low and my fears overflowing.
But the principal didn’t seem to see any of that.
Or maybe he saw all of it
The next day I got the call.
I was offered a position as first grade teacher in Culpeper, Virginia.
Joy mixed with apprehension as I quickly prepared myself for the task.
Yes, I remember walking down that long sloping hall to my classroom in Room 13.
As I stared at all the empty desks and chairs I tried to imagine the children who would be in my class.
You can do this, I said to myself.
You’ve taught before.
Yes, you can do it.
With an effort at conveying some professionalism
I walked back up the hall to the principal’s office to get my class roll.
The principal was standing there and we chatted a little back and forth.
The roll in my hand had to wait as we discussed the birds outside and the lovely young trees.
His calm voice eased my anxieties and nervousness.
It wasn’t until I got back to my classroom that I looked down at the paper in my hand.
Name after name was listed in alphabetical order.
Thirty two names.
I couldn’t believe it. How in the world would I ever manage to teach so many?
What had I gotten myself into?
But today as I look back I realize more than ever
what helped me
or I should say
who helped me.
My principal believed in me.
Yes, he believed that I could do the job
and I was determined to prove him right.
My John Kelley left a lasting impression on my life
as he gave me the encouragement and confidence to grow as a teacher.
Years passed all too quickly
and I along with the rest of the faculty
worked hard to give our very best to our students.
Long hours were spent
staying late after the boys and girls had gone home
and working over the weekend. It was just what we did.
I was saddened this week to learn of his quiet passing
But deep within my heart he’s left an example of a quality leader.
He believed in his teachers and as a result they were determined to prove him right.
Thank you, Mr. Kelley, for all your years of being my principal.
Thank you, Mr. Kelley, for everything.