Jerry Wear retires from Catlettsburg Elementary

Apr. 24, 2013 @ 11:17 PM

At the end of May, Jerry Wear will leave behind a 45-year education career to serve as district governor of the Rotary Club.

“I have mixed feelings about retiring,” he said. “But it wouldn’t be fair to the school for me to stay with this new set of responsibilities.”

Four years ago, Wear retired, but his break was short-lived, lasting only 33 days.

When Catlettsburg Elementary opened soon thereafter, Wear agreed to oversee the school for a brief period until someone could be hired to fill the position. That period lasted four years.

Wear enjoyed his career at Catlettsburg, and he is grateful for the tremendous support the school has received from the community. “We have wonderful teachers that we were able to choose. It’s made for a good environment,” he said. “All the teachers feel like they are a part of the school. Catlettsburg is like a big family.”

Originally Wear planned a career in the foreign service. For a short time, he worked with the Peace Corps to improve food production in Morocco.

Soon thereafter, he received news that his father had been paralyzed in an accident, so he returned to take over the family’s construction business. “I didn’t have a clue about running a construction company, so we got someone to help,” he said.

As luck would have it, Wear stepped into his first administrative position at the old Boyd’s Creek Elementary School. “I went down to talk to Paul Bogart (who was Superintendent of Schools at the time). Since it was mid-year, he said he didn’t have any openings right now, but he might need a language teacher in the fall,” he said.

Then Bogart received a call. The principal at Boyd’s Creek was leaving. Suddenly Wear had his first job as an administrator.

His responsibilities in the two-room school were numerous. “We didn’t have a custodian, so I cleaned every day after school,” he said. “We had an old stove with a stoker furnace. During the winter months, I’d have to shovel coal every day to get it started so we would have heat.”

He also acted as a part-time chef. “They only paid the cook for two hours a day,” he added, “so when I went in I’d put something on the stove on low, then at 10 o’clock, the lady would come in and finish cooking.”

When Boyd’s Creek Elementary closed, Wear taught American history and French at Seymour High School, where he also coached the boys basketball team. He was only there a year before becoming principal at Kodak Elementary, which closed the following year.

Then Wear became the principal at Sevierville Primary school,  the largest primary school in the state at the time. After 17 years there, Wear accepted an administrative position at Pigeon Forge Primary, where he spent 20 years.

Wear recalled a humourous experience during a teacher evaluation at Sevierville Primary. A student in the back of the room kept looking at him instead of focusing on the lesson. “The teacher walked to the back of the room and asked, ‘Do you know who this is?’ The little boy said, ‘Yes, that’s Office.’ He thought my name was Office because the teacher always told them if they didn’t get quiet, she’d send them to the office,” he said.

Wear never intended to be a teacher. “But I liked it so much I went back and got two more degrees,” he said. “I couldn’t decide if I was going to be a school teacher or a permanent student.”

Wear now holds a masters of education degree in supervision and administration, which he obtained from the University of Mississippi, as well as an education specialist degree, which he earned from The University of Tennessee.

The best lesson he has learned is the importance of meeting children where they are. “All children are different and all have different needs. When we try to put them in a box and make them the same, it doesn’t work,” he said. “All children have something they are good at. We need to focus on that. We need to produce good citizens who are literate, and help each realize his potential.”

The greatest change in education, Wear said, is the emphasis on assessment. “It’s a double-edged sword,” he said. “It’s good to know where we are with students, but we’ve overdone it. There’s no time for learning or for kids to be kids.”

Wear is thankful for the teachers he has had an opportunity to work with in Sevier County schools. “We need good teachers to help us develop good schools,” he said. “Administrators can do nothing without good teachers.”

He will now embark on another chapter in life as district governor of the Rotary Club, the largest service organization in the United States. His current focus is on eradicating the polio virus, providing water tanks for schools in Mexico, helping Mexican children receive necessary kidney transplants, and helping Third World countries with food production.

Although he’s a few years older, and the organization carries a different title, Wear’s goal of working in foreign service has at last become a reality.

jfrye@themountainpress.com