In the last 40 years Julia Gibbons has seen a lot: The integration of an elementary school, grandchildren - and great grandchildren - and hundreds of students coming though her classroom. She's even had former students teaching alongside her. But East Newton Elementary School will have to do without their "go-to teacher" next year, because Gibbons is retiring.
"I can't imagine how many kids' lives she's touched throughout the years," said East Newton Principal Kim Coady. "The kids who will never have her just don't know what they'll be missing... And I don't care if you're the president's child, she is going to treat everyone the same no matter what. She's tough, but if you can make it through her class you're set... She's full of life and we're going to really miss her."
According to Coady, Gibbons is always one of the first in the building every morning and she has to "run her out!" every evening, such is her dedication to her students. Even though Gibbons was having surgery this year during CRCTs, crucial standardized tests, her classroom posted a 100 percent pass rate.
Gibbons was raised in the profession, attending a two-room schoolhouse in Jefferson where her mother taught the lower grades. She started at East Newton when it was the black school in Newton County and taught seventh grade, then fifth and sixth, before starting fourth grade, which is where she remained. Gibbons said she enjoyed teaching older children and that she liked how fourth graders started out the year as "babies" and grew up by Christmas. She also said that at 71, driving 100 miles round-trip from Athens daily, had taken its toll and it was time to step down.
"All the teachers in the East Newton family have kept me young but I couldn't stay young forever," said Gibbons.
"Ms. Gibbons has the admiration of us all after more than four decades of teaching children at East Newton," said Superintendent Gary Mathews. We wish her all the best in her new life ahead. Thank you, Ms. Gibbons!"