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Mabry preparing to leave the hive after 35 years

By Thomas Sellers Jr.Mabry Harrold entrance

Mabry was greeted by several students and spotted third-grader Brandy Henderson, who's father Bryant she taught in the first grade.

Mabry was greeted by several students and spotted third-grader Brandy Henderson, who’s father Bryant she taught in the first grade.

For 35 years, Tanya Mabry has made a career of greeting the public, promoting Shelby County Schools, being a face of Millington education and sharing good news about area children.

When Mabry graduated from Millington Central High School in 1973, she enrolled into then Memphis State University with a desire to become a public relations major. But it was an offer from her late mother Mary Lou Watkins, that led Mabry to a career in education.

“When I was in college, they had different requirements for people to be substitute teachers,” Mabry recalled. “You could get anybody you could find to be a substitute. So I had finished my sophomore year in college and came back home. And my mom worked as the secretary at Millington South. So they needed a sub over there. She said, ‘Do you want to come and sub?’ I was like, ‘Sure.’ I fell in love with it.

“I fell in love with the age of the child,” she added. “I fell in love with the thought of being a teacher. I just fell in love with it. I’m just drawn to the elementary kids. I love to watch these babies grow.”

Mabry changed her major to Education earning her degree in 1977. She returned to the place she called home since the age of 2 and started her professional career at Millington Central Elementary School.

After 14 years of being a teacher, she worked six years at the SCS Board sparking an interest in administration. For the last 15 years, Mabry has called E.A. Harrold Elementary home.

Last month Mabry announced her run as prinicipal of E.A. Harrold will come to an end after the school year.

“It just comes a time in your life when you just reflect, you think and you pray,” she said. “And you know that between your personal situation and your professional situation, you feel at peace about it. It’s just time.”

The 57-year-old is ready to dedicate more time to her husband of 35 years Pat. Spend time with her grown children William and Katie and granddaughter Mary Frances.

For the last decade and half, Mabry has been the devoted leader of the Hornets.

“It is a neat and wonderful experience to be in a position where you are educating children,” she noted. “I’ve always worked at the elementary level. They leave us in the fifth grade with this little, bitty baby face. And the next time I see them, they are adults. So they morph into these wonderful, fantastic productive members of the community.

“Being here at the principal has been fun because I get to see children that I’ve taught and had an influence on,” Mabry continued. “So we’re almost having an influnce on the next generation of learners. That’s a tremendous effect. You see kids graduate who I’ve taught grow up to be adults and successful. ‘Hey Mrs. Mabry, you remember when we did this?’ That’s kind of fun to see those children that you have, maybe you had a little bit of influence in their life.”

Mabry said her parents Mary Lou and Bill Watkins had a huge impact on her life. And the Hawaii native, said the community she moved to as a toddler become a big part of her heart.

Mabry was happy to have her first job be at Millington Central Elementary.

“When I started 35 years ago, we taught our own library, art, music and P.E.,” she recalled. “We sat with the children at lunch. There was no such thing  as duty-free lunch.”

Mabry noted Open Space was a outstanding learning experience for her allowing her to work with principals giving her the knowledge to try to move into a leadership role.

She added over the year changes in technology, routines, requirements and testing have taken place. But she said the outlook of the children has remained the same.

“As simple as this sound, the open-mindness for children to be good learners has been consistent,” she said. “Everybody has a day here or there when they’re not on. Kids are just an open slate. Their enthusium and excitement for learning has reminded the same. And teachers are excited about sharing ideas and sharing technquies with each other to help the kids reach those goals.”

Mabry said her stepping down has nothing to do with her passion for the job.

“When you first start out, when you get to the point when you’re not excited to start school, then you know it’s time to go on home,” she said. “Every year that I have started school has been a tickle in my stomach and an excitement over seeing the children. Registration is probably one of my favorite days of the year.

“You get to see the kids with their big happy smiles,” Mabry continued. “You get to hug their parents, you get to ask them, ‘What was your summer like?’ For me its like everybody is starting with a clean slate. Everybody is excited and enthustic about the start.”

Mabry said she will miss many elements of the job like the smiling children, the staff that has become family and the parents.

“I love my job. I love it,” she said with tears running down her face. “There are so many people. I’m going to miss them. I’m going to miss these sweet children. I’m going to miss the parents.

“When August 2 rolls around and it’s registration day, I will probably want to get up and grab a pencil and come out to help,” she added. “It’s just a part of your routine for so long. It’s going to take some getting used to doing something else.”

Mabry said the nest she called home for years will be left in good hands. And all future Hornets will carry on the legacy she started 15 years ago.

“My personal goal as a principal was to have a school where children felt loved, and they felt safe,” she said. “And their parents were happy with the education they were getting. So that’s what I hope with all this fantastic staff that is in this building, that is my dream in my heart I know will continue. That will continue. When we have people who are visitors come in this building for the first time, when they leave, it’s like a proud Mama.

“You are most happy when people come by the first time and say, ‘This is one of the sweetest places I’ve ever been,’” Mabry concluded. “‘Everybody is friendly and welcoming. The children are sweet. They like to learn and they’re well behaved.’ That’s the kind of compliment as the Mama of the School you want to hear. I know that will continue because I think it’s ingrained on how they operate throughout the day.”



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April 2013
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