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When Southeast Bulloch Middle School Principal Donna Clifton was in school, she never dreamed one day she would be her teacher’s boss.
Her teacher, Mary Williams, was honored at the 2008-2009 Bulloch County School System Retirees Banquet Monday night for serving 35 years — and Clifton, her former student, introduced her to the crowd.
“I bet she would have never thought I’d be a student in her class and be her principal 35 years later,” she said. “But that’s where life has brought us.”
Praising Williams for her dedication to teaching, Clifton also mentioned William’s success in coaching cheerleading, with seven region championships behind her belt and invitations to perform at the Sugar Bowl and Citrus Bowl.
“She’s not finished with education,” Clifton said, stating that Willams expects to complete her doctorate in December and is considering opening a learning center for children with disabilities.
Williams smiled as Clifton spoke, showing the pride of an educator in seeing one of her students become successful.
“It is definitely an experience — you know you’re getting to the end of your career when you’ve taught your principal,” she said. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my 35 years in Bulloch County — we do have a lot of great people in Bulloch County.”
Of 16 retirees honored Monday, Williams has put in the most years, 35. But many others run close.
Bettye Harper, federal programs director for Bulloch County schools, is retiring after 33 years.
Assistant Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jody Woodrum spoke highly of Harper. “No one can replace Mrs. Harper,” she said. “She is a consumate educator, a constant learner.
“I have enjoyed all of my 33 years and I hope to continue learning,” Harper said.
Patricia Cartee, tech liaison, is retiring after 32 years. Langston Chapel Elementary kindergarten teacher Kay Anthony is retiring after 30 years in education. So is Joanne H. Nesmith, a Southeast Bulloch High School English teacher.
Mill Creek Elementary second grade teacher Jane Yawn and Lynda Yawn, assistant superintendent of human resources, are also retiring after 30 years of service.
Other educators and school system employees were honored Monday for their years of service as well. They include: Willie B. Thompson, transportation mechanic, 29 years; Lynda Webb, Statesboro High school social studies teacher, 29 years; Langston Chapel Elementary second grade teacher Jane Young, 28 years; Joyce Daniels, Stilson Elementary School fourth grade teacher, 26 years.
Also, Rebekah Edenfield, Hospital Homebound instructor, 25 years; Gerelle Collins, paraprofessional at Mattie Lively Elementary, 21 years; bus driver Rebecca Lanier, 20 years; school psychologist Keith Manahan, 17 years; bus driver Julia Willams, 19 years.
The honorees were treated to a steak and shrimp dinner at RJ’s Steaks and Seafood. Each retiree was introduced by his or her supervisor.
Lynda Yawn welcomed guests. Bulloch County Board of Education vice chairman Dr. Charles Bonds gave the invocation. After the meal, department heads and principals introduced the retirees, followed by a presentation by Bulloch Retired Educators Association membership chairman Julie Lanier.
Bulloch BOE chairman David Ball closed the evening with remarks about the value of dedicated educators, and presented each retiree with a gift.
Bulloch County School Superintendent Dr. Lewis Holloway also spoke, offering bits of humor as he spoke about Lynda Yawn’s retirement after 30 years of service.
“I always appreciate this night,” he said of the annual retirees banquet. “It’s a fun night for me.”