The Word is Out

I am going to retire from teaching at the end of this school year.

It is with sadness and joy that I made this decision. Sadness – because I love to teach and I love the students. Joy – because I will be entering a new phase of life.

I began my teaching career 40 years ago during the 1974-1975 school year. I taught at Almond School in Swain County and I knew I had found my calling. Almond School was a small K-8 community school with amazing parent involvement and excellent teachers. I was mentored by some of the best. I taught in Swain County for three years during which time I met Phil. We got married, and June 9th of that 3rd year we had our first child – he was born the last day of school.

Miss Gayle Barker -1975

Miss Gayle Barker -1975


For the sake of full disclosure I must state that I have not taught school all 40 of those years. I stayed home with small children, volunteered at our church’s Christian School part-time and volunteered for the Jackson County Department of Public Health. Volunteering for the Health Department turned into a part-time job that involved teaching in all the schools in Jackson County.

I returned to full-time teaching and finally – as my mother loves to point out – starting using my college degree – art. Teaching art has given me a sense of fulfillment and pleasure that has confirmed for me that I was right where I was supposed to be – Smoky Mountain High School.

The decision to retire is based on three situations that confirmed this was the right time –

  • my parents, who had lived with us for 8 1/2 years, moved into a retirement community in my hometown of Wheaton, Illinois where my brother and his wife live. My father will be 91 next week and my mother will be 87 the week after. I miss them and want to go visit them more frequently.
  • our oldest daughter now lives in Maryland with her husband and four children and I plan to make that trip more often. I don’t want to miss so much of their young lives.
  • our youngest daughter will be having our 12th grandchild in August and I want to be available to assist her in every way I can. Our son-in-law said he would build a shed in the backyard so I could move in. How sweet!!

I really believe that teaching was my calling professionally and even more so spiritually. God has given me a love for high school students – even the ones who challenge my sanity – maybe especially those. I have enjoyed seeing the joy of discovery on the faces of students and hearing their excitement when they master a new skill in art class. I have learned so much from my students as well. That I will miss.

Mrs. Gayle Woody - 2015

Mrs. Gayle Woody – 2015

I am not retiring from my desire to honor God in all I do.

I will just be doing different things.

One of my underlying messages to students has been that life DOES NOT END AT 25, or 30, or 40, or, 50 – even 63!   I plan to exemplify that truth in the years I have left.

Colossians 3:16-17 are verses that have guided me since I was in college – especially verse 17.

16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

God is faithful. I anticipate with joy what lies ahead  – as I leave with sadness the co-workers and students of Smoky Mountain High School.

I have been richly blessed.

20 thoughts on “The Word is Out

  1. Carol Buchanan says:

    What a blessing you gave been to so many!! Hoping I get to make some of those trips to Illinois with you.


  2. Kathleen says:

    Congratulations on a long and happy career Gayle. You have been such a wonderful example to so many. I don’t have family in Illinois, but boy what I wouldn’t give to ride in the backseat of the car and listen to the conversation between you and Carol on those trips to Wheaton!


  3. Gayle – I am so happy for you as you make this transition. Any child who has had you as a teacher has been fortunate (I wish my kids had taken art with you!), and I know you will continue to bless others and serve Him while being able to spend more time with family. I miss seeing you and hope we will have a chance to reconnect in 2016!


  4. Vicki Stickle says:

    Much happiness for you and your family as you enter this phase in your life. Seeing how you keep your focus on our Heavenly Father you and your loved ones will be richly blessed.


  5. One of my favorite people is just moving into a new period of life in which she will impact many lives I’m sure.


  6. Deb says:

    Wow! A new season in your life!! 🙂 Your children will be blessed to have you! Thank you for serving Father, it is a testimony of your faithfulness to Him, many have been blessed!


  7. Bobbie Jo Rhymer says:

    I am happy for you and sad. My kids will be heart broke that you will no longer be teaching Art. Kendall has so enjoyed being in your class and was looking forward to her senior year with you. Carson he just wanted you to wait on him to get there. Best of Luck!


  8. Please destroy that first picture from 1975 and let none of us ever speak of it again…


  9. Why? Don’t you like that sweater? Grandma made that for me. Oh the 70’s!! Where do you think you got your refined sense of fashion?


  10. Julia Rhode Jacobs says:

    I remember when you first started dating Philip. Life goes by at warp speed.
    Julia Rhode Jacobs


  11. Yes it does! We will be maried 40 years in November – it’s hard to imagine. I hope you and your family are well. Blessings to you, Julia.


    • Julia Rhode Jacobs says:

      We just passed our 33 year mark. It has been a good life…..even when there is trouble it is still paradise! One chi,d is a social worker,one is a teacher in Japan, Greg has retired from the D.S.’s Office and enjoys teaching now and I love my work with developmentally delayed preschoolers. And, just like you, I still have my parents…. A wonderful thing.


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