Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

MC Weekly

August 21, 2013

RAY MOSCOWITZ: Elementary principals, teachers are key factors

They fill a critical need in the lives of our children.

“Tommy Richardson is bubbling like fizz in a shaken-up soda.”

That opening sentence in a story by Dann Denny, a veteran Bloomington Herald-Times reporter, yanked me into a piece about Richardson taking a new principal’s job.

After reading the story, my thoughts turned to Jerry Miller, David Hahn and several teachers at Pipe Creek and Blair Pointe elementary schools.

I know Miller and Hahn well; I don’t know Richardson at all. But one thing is apparent to me: The three men have a stellar commonality. They are or were elementary school principals who truly made or make a crucial difference in children’s lives.

To me, elementary school principals and teachers are the most important people in youngsters’ formative years, save for their parents.

I have long felt that teachers who toil in the first six grades — when cognition, values, principles and mores take root in young lives — fill an especially critical need.

The Tommy Richardson saga revolved around him becoming the principal of Fairview Elementary School in Bloomington after teaching for five years, being an assistant principal for one, and serving for seven as principal at another elementary school, all in Monroe County — and all after owning and operating a convenience store before deciding, at 40, to become a teacher.

“So much of that decision was based on faith,” Richardson told Denny. “For years, I’d had the desire to serve students, but one day I finally decided to take a leap of faith. …

“I realized right away that I had found my sweet spot — working with young people. This is what I’m meant to do. The kids inspire me.”

Kids inspired Miller, too, before he retired at Pipe Creek after more than 30 years, during which, at times, he did everything — teaching, counseling, lending a hand in the cafeteria, making minor repairs — whatever it took to ensure the school hummed along with happy kids learning and dedicated teachers and staff members applying their skills.

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