Today, I have the rare pleasure of writing a blog post about an author who I know personally. When I was growing up, I attended an elementary school run by an amazing group of educators, including our principal, George Towery. Mr. Towery is one of those people who you are fortunate to meet in life. Just by being his caring and compassionate self, he made elementary school memorable and a great deal of fun.
And now Mr. Towery has published a book called “Touched by a Child: A Principal’s Story”. In this book, he relates the experiences he had at two different elementary schools in 45 years of being an educator. Sometimes the stories are funny. I still remember hearing the story of the poor lady who got lost on the interstate and stopped by the school to ask for directions. They had to tell her that she was not only in the wrong city, she was in the wrong state.
Other comic stories include goats and other animals. One school played home to two goats, Sweet Pea and Baby Boo, who lived in a fenced-off area of the playground. Caring for these animals taught responsibility for students who were in the Goat Club. At the other school, they adopted a rabbit, ducks and chickens that resided in an inner courtyard. During a visit from Nancy Reagan (wife of President Reagan), she asked, “Did I hear a rooster crow?” Yes, Mrs. Reagan, you did. And then she wanted to see them.
There were field trips to historic destinations such as Mt. Vernon and The White House (on that trip, I saw the President with my own eyes, even though at a distance — big thrill for a student). Students also went camping on one special weekend, chaperoned by teachers and parents. We learned to cook on miniature burners made from tuna cans, paraffin wax and cardboard. Cooking pans were placed over larger metal cans that were over the burners, and holes were cut in those cans to allow smoke to escape. We also got real-world lessons in subjects such as biology (studying the plants and aquatic life in nearby ponds) and orienteering (learning how to use compasses and read relief maps).
Sometimes the stories are sad. Some students came from backgrounds with not-so-nice parents (Child Protective Services had to be called in some cases); others came from families who had emigrated to the U.S. and lived in poverty. Reading their stories as told by Mr. Towery makes you appreciate what you have. For these children, something as simple as having a warm coat from the school’s Clothing Center was a great luxury.
Over the years, Mr. Towery has impacted the lives of hundreds of people: students, students’ families, teachers, school staff and administrators. Now he’s enjoying a well-deserved retirement and I can’t think of anybody who deserves it more. I’m lucky to have had him as a principal.