Wearwood principal Bruce Wilson retires

May. 01, 2013 @ 11:11 PM

Since he was a sophomore in high school, Bruce Wilson knew what he wanted to be: a teacher and coach. “I know that's unusual, “ he said. “But I just knew.”

Wilson is retiring as principal of Wearwood Elementary.

Having a number of good teachers in high school fueled his interest in education, Wilson said.

When he first graduated from the University of Tennessee, however, he couldn't find a job. He began working for Kroger in the evenings and substitute teaching for the city of Knoxville. A few months later, In mid-1974, he got a call from Seymour High School. An unexpected opening let Wilson begin as asocial studies teacher. For nine years, he taught courses ranging from economics to sociology in grades seven through 12.

An avid sports enthusiast, Wilson also coached the tennis team for four years. He served as the assistant football coach for 12 years, and as the baseball coach for 10.

In the early 1980s, Wilson became the assistant principal at Seymour High. For a while, he served double duty, working as both a teacher and administrator. “For about two years, Larry Huskey, the principal, worked in the state legislature,” Wilson recalled.. “He left on Monday and came back on Friday. I was really the principal, assistant principal, and a teacher for a while. It was good experience, but I didn't think about it that way at the time.”

When the new Seymour school was constructed in 1987, Wilson had the opportunity to assist in planning the facility. Two years later, he became the principal.

In 2003, Wilson planned to retire, but another opportunity presented itself, and he became principal of Wearwood, where he would spend another decade.

“It was a small school, like what Seymour used to be,” he said. “There's a sense of community. Everybody knows everybody, and I enjoyed the challenge of adjusting to younger kids.”

Wilson said the greatest shift he has seen in education is in testing and teacher evaluations. “We all need a measuring stick of accountability, but we've almost gone overboard,” he said.

The most important thing he has learned, then and now: “Kids are still kids.”

Kids want to know teachers care, Wilson said. “Most want to learn, and they need to see that school can be a good place to come,” he said. From kindergarten students to seniors in high school, “their basic needs are the same.”

Wilson feels fortunate to have dedicated a career to education. “Most people go through three or four jobs,” he said. “I've been lucky enough to do something I enjoy.”

He advises upcoming students to take education seriously. “Most students don't realize how important education is, but it's the key to anything anyone does. Learning to read, write, and think is how you provide opportunities for yourself. It can be life changing.”

Though he is retiring, Wilson would like to work part-time for the school system, if the opportunity presents itself.  He will also continue working with the Seymour High School Baseball Team.

Retirement will give him more time to devote to the Rotary Club, which he calls “the best service organization in the world.” It works on community service projects, locally and internationally. Wilson serves as president of the Pigeon Forge chapter.

Like all teachers, Wilson remembers funny stories. “One time at the high school, the cheerleaders were selling carnations for a fundraiser,” he recalled. “But I got tongue-tied. Instead of saying what I was supposed to say, I began by saying, 'If anyone is interested in purchasing a cheerleader...”

Said Wilson, “I learned the importance of proofing things before you announce them.”

jfrye@themountainpress.com