When a teacher becomes a principal, it’s unlikely for the educator to remain in the same school.
But South Side Elementary School Principal Amy Stover has done just that during a career that spans nearly three decades.
“I’m the historian now. I’m one of the few teachers who remembers the old school that was torn down when we moved to the new school,” she said.
On Wednesday, Stover announced she will be retiring at the end of June. It was a tough decision, she said, but it was a decision that seemed to come at a time when she felt comfortable leaving.
“As you get older and you start feeling the need to slow down a little bit, you understand that you need to prioritize your life, so that’s what really led me to this decision,” she said.
Retirement will give Stover a chance to travel with her husband and spend time with her three grandchildren.
When a number of teachers retired last year, Stover wanted to stay on board to hire new teachers for the school year. Now that things have settled down, Stover said it just seemed like the right time to leave.
“I felt like that was a legacy I could leave to have a really top-notch teaching staff here, and I’ve done that, so more and more this year it just felt like it was time,” she said from her office Friday.
Stover spent the last 27 years within the walls of South Side — 20 of which were spent in the classroom, teaching fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders.
After announcing her retirement, Stover was asked what subject she had enjoyed teaching the most during her time in the classroom. It’s a toss-up between science, reading and writing.
“I guess I loved it all,” she said.
Before taking on the title of teacher at South Side in 1985, Stover was a stay-at-home mom and president of the elementary school’s PTA. There was a 10-year gap between her last stint as teacher until she assumed the role as fourth-grade teacher during a six-week interim assignment at South Side.
It was her time in that classroom as a substitute that really reminded her about the magic the classroom offers.
“It was that daily interaction of having a group to call my own. When you were just substituting, you couldn’t really get into the curriculum; you couldn’t really teach what you wanted to teach ... and I just missed having a class to call my own,” she said.
In the fall of 1985, Stover moved into her own classroom where she began teaching sixth-graders.
At that point, there were less than 300 students in the school and classes were still meeting in a building that had been in the community since 1917.
Students and faculty moved into the current building in 1996.
Just as she stumbled into the teaching position, Stover said she became an “accidental principal” during the latter portion of her career.
When John Boyd, a former principal of Science Hill High School, took a sabbatical from his position of principal at South Side in 2005 to finish his doctoral studies at East Tennessee State University, Stover stepped in on a temporary basis as principal.
Boyd then took a job with the Central Office before moving to Science Hill, and Stover became the full-time principal.
Making the transition from teacher to principal can often be a tricky thing, but Stover said her transition was made easier because of the fact she remained a part of the South Side family.
“I was at a huge advantage, but it was still a tremendous adjustment to go from being responsible for 25 kids to being responsible for 450 kids and a whole school and everything else that goes with that,” she said.
Sitting in the position of principal has made Stover come to appreciate the job the teachers do every day even more, especially given the change in curricula and standards teachers now face.
Even though she’s saying goodbye to South Side, the school will remain an important part of her life. And, yes, she’ll always be a South Side Owl.
“It’s going to be really hard to walk out that door for the last time. I think my car is going to automatically come to South Side every morning. It has for 27 years,” she said.