As the longest running principal in Newton County, G.W. Davis has decided to step down after 19 years at the oft-acclaimed Mansfield Elementary School. A school he first entered as a bright young student, he now leaves behind as a seasoned educator.
This year will be his final year at the school he entered as a first-grader and attended through the eighth-grade, during a time when middle school didn't exist.
"I have loved being a part of such a large family," Davis said. "Everyone - the parents, students and staff - all love and care about each other. We're an old-fashioned school full of great people with big hearts."
Davis decided to retire after experiencing many health problems over the past few years. Last year he had back surgery and is expected to have knee replacement surgery in the near future.
"I wanted to have one more full year with my staff and students before I retired," Davis continued. "This year I have been able to come to school almost every day. I felt like this was a good year to finally retire. The board has found a good replacement for me as well. It just felt like it was time, especially with my health."
Before there were middle schools, administrators would ask eighth grade students to help watch the younger kids while teachers ran an errand or had something to do. This policy prepared Davis for his future career.
"I was asked quite a few times to watch the younger kids, and I actually found it was something that I enjoyed," he said. "By the end of the year, I knew I wanted to do something in education."
Since then, Davis has been a fifth and sixth grade teacher along with being an assistant principal before becoming principal of
Mansfield. During those times, he has seen many changes in education from the way teachers teach to how students learn and are taught.
"Technology has sped up the pace of everything," he continued. "When I first was involved in education, we were still using duplicators since there wasn't such a thing as a computer. Now students and teachers have a variety of resources open to them they didn't have before. It's amazing."
Davis said that the biggest part he will miss once he retires is the personal contact he has with the people.
"The kids get off the bus in the mornings and come give me a big hug, and it's the same in the afternoons," Davis said. "They are happy and bubbly and always know how to keep you smiling. It's what helps you stay young."
He hopes he has left them many lessons that will stay with his students for a lifetime.
"When I was a child I would love hearing my father tell stories about how things have changed over the years," he continued. "There are going to be even more changes in the future. The students have learned that from talking to me. What I hope they've taken away from that is they will be the leaders of the world someday, and education will be a much needed factor in that, so they'll need to stick to it."
After retirement, Davis plans to travel with his wife and visit as many Civil War battlefields as possible.
"I want to do as much as I can," he said. "I want to become more involved in my church and go on mission trips that I couldn't go on in the past because of the school calendar. I also plan to hunt and fish a lot. Plus, there are a few openings in the community I hope to become a part of."
Davis would like to thank the community for allowing him to be principal for 19 years.
"Thank you," Davis said. "Thank you for allowing me the privilege of being here. There is no other better job or place I would rather be. Thank you parents for trusting me with your most precious possessions to be under my guidance these past 19 years."