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.