Students gather Wednesday with counselor Pam Gilliam-Pearce on her last day in her teaching career. (Press photo by Madison Mathews)
Not many people can say they have enjoyed every single minute of a career that spanned more than 30 years, but Indian Trail Intermediate School guidance counselor Pam Gilliam-Pearce considers herself to be one of the lucky few who can.
Gilliam-Pearce has spent the better part of her career as a counselor with Johnson City Schools. As a counselor, she believes she has had a finger on the pulse of the school.
“I think the bottom line is just being available to kids. They know that you’re here. They know that everyday. It’s a real consistent relationship. They can count on you and they grow to trust you, and to me that’s really powerful,” she said.
Affectionately known as Mrs. G-P to her students and fellow teachers, Gilliam-Pearce is taking a leave of absence next year and will retire at the end of next year, putting an end to a career in education that lasted for 35 years.
During her career, she has taught at Henry Johnson Elementary, Woodland Elementary and Indian Trail, where she has spent the last 15 years.
Being a part of several different schools was one of the many aspects Gilliam-Pearce enjoyed.
“I’ve felt very fortunate to do that because you get to see different levels of transition and different moves in the city and the system and educational process and how we’re moving along and how we’re diligently trying to find those fits for kids that are most effective and productive,” she said.
But being a counselor wasn’t always in the cards for Gilliam-Pearce. She began her career as a fourth-grade teacher before making the decision to become a counselor — a job she said isn’t all that different from teaching in the classroom.
“I love teaching and I think being a school counselor you get to teach. I think being a teacher first helped me a whole lot to learn how to relate to kids and learn how to build relationships and be a good listener,” she said.
Many of the relationships Gilliam-Pearce has formed during her time with Johnson City Schools have a special place in her heart, as she has gotten the chance to teach multiple generations of students.
“I love that. I love seeing that transition and keeping those connections and relationships and one of the greatest compliments a teacher or counselor can be given is when an adult says, ‘You were my teacher and I’m so thankful that you’re teaching my child.’ I just think that’s a great legacy,” she said.
Gilliam-Pearce will spend her retirement taking care of her mother, who turns 87 in June.
“I really want to spend some quality time with my mom and I thought what better way to use my retirement and my leave than to spend time with my mom and enjoy her,” she said.
Although she’s leaving Indian Trail behind, Gilliam-Pearce said she is proud of all of her students and the career that allowed her to foster relationships with them.
“I do believe that you should leave something behind when you go. I can leave saying that I did the very best job that I knew how to do and I did it with all my heart, so no regrets,” she said.
Indian Trail Principal Dave Peccia said Gilliam-Pearce will be greatly missed by the school and other students and administration throughout the system.
“One of the things we’re always told as administrators is everyone’s replaceable, but I don’t know if she truly is. She’s going to be a hard act to follow. Kids adored her and they absolutely loved her. She’s so wise in her counsel, not only for the children and the parents but a lot of times teachers and administration. We will greatly miss her,” he said.