A warm welcome: Byrd Elementary School principal Beth Taylor hugs a few of her students as they arrive for the first day of school last August. Taylor recently announced she is retiring from the Selma City School System, making the recently completed school year her last.

Longtime educator, principal retiring after 34 years

Published 10:57pm Tuesday, May 29, 2012

She walked down the school’s hallway past paper projects and posters taped up on the wall. “How are you doing today?” she asked a little first grade boy.

“Blessed to be at Byrd,” he said to Byrd Elementary principal Beth Taylor.

“If a child feels that way and feels safe then you know you are doing something right,” said Taylor, who will be retiring this week from Byrd Elementary.

Taylor has worked in the Selma City School system for 34 years. She started as a second grade teacher at Payne Elementary in 1977, years before Apple computers and smart boards were used in classrooms.

After working at Payne, she moved to The School of Discovery and then finally to Byrd Elementary as principal in 2001.

“I’m 63-years-old and in good health,” Taylor said. “I don’t want to go home on a walker. I want to enjoy myself while I can.”

She calculated one day approximately how many students she has taught and gotten to know over the last 34 years: more than 2,000 she said was her best guess.

“I don’t have any children of my own so these kids have been my heart and that’s what I have been working for — to give my best to them and then they give back the love that I give them,” Taylor said.

She taught the postman that delivers her mail to the school each day when he was in second grade and she taught his children years later. She has seen more than one generation in her tenure. But out of all the precious and rewarding things she sees as a principal she said she will miss the hugs the most.

“I cant walk down the hallway without getting stopped for hugs,” Taylor said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re in first or fifth grade, they are going to stop me and hug me.”

She said after moving to Selma from New England it was a bit of a culture shock. Her principal at Payne Elementary told her when she started that there were no white teachers at Payne and no black teachers — just teachers.

“And that’s how I’ve always looked at children. They are children it does not matter what color their skin is,” Taylor said.

Her philosophy is to go through life smiling and to just laugh sometimes. Her philosophy as a leader and principal is to take as much paperwork off of the teachers as possible because then, she said, teachers can dedicate their time to really teaching.

She taught her eighth grade students years ago that life is a game and you have to figure out who’s rules you are playing by.

Even though Taylor is retiring, she said she will be around still to help with landscaping and help plant the seasonal flowers on Byrd’s campus, something she has grown passionate about.

“It’s been a wonderful, wonderful ride,” Taylor said. “I’m blessed to have been at Byrd.”

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