LETTER: Being an educator at Columbia Public Schools brings challenges and joy

Tuesday, September 9, 2008 | 1:11 p.m. CDT

Do you love your job more than words can express? Is your job worthwhile, fun and stimulating? Do you obtain more from your job than a mere paycheck? I can guarantee there was a time in my life when I may have answered "no" to these questions. As I write this, however, I would never say anything of the sort. Columbia Public Schools has changed the way I view education. And, I am certain if you were to survey other employees, you would find similar annotations.

Being an elementary principal at Midway Heights Elementary makes me one of the happiest employees and educators alive. Besides my immediate family - including my dear husband, three precious daughters, amazing parents and two fantastic sisters - my 300 other children and 40 staff members at Midway Heights are another reason for waking up each and every day with a "take-on-the-world" attitude. If you have not had an opportunity to explore the wonders of an elementary school, or a CPS school for that matter, then you have been sorely deprived!

It always frustrates me when people complain about their professions or complain about the field of education. I feel so very fortunate to have come from a family of educators. My father is an adult education administrator, my mother is a secondary teacher, my middle sister is a college professor and my baby sister is a middle school teacher and coach. I firmly believe that education represents a calling. I like to think I served as a positive influence for my younger siblings and many of the new teachers I work with, just as my parents did for me. When I share my feelings and my experiences regarding my new school district, I feel more excited than ever before. Of course, we still talk about daily educational issues, but as always, we are all proud to be educators.

Each day as an educator can be a challenge. As an administrator, I diligently strive to help increase student achievement, to maintain teacher support, to establish and maintain a safe and orderly school, to be creative with a limited budget and to hire and retain stellar teachers. I challenge myself everyday to ensure that I am contributing to our mission of offering the very best education for all of our children. I don't see a challenge as an obstacle; I see a challenge as an opportunity to fulfill our district's vision. The district administrators here are all committed to excellence. Since school began, two board members, Dr. Ritter, Dr. Jensen, Dr. Laffey, Dr. Boren and Dr. Lyon have all been here to visit our students and our staff members. How often does a district have such support from their board and their central office officials?

I have worked in four different school districts and have had an opportunity to compare and contrast each one of them. I have nothing but plaudits for Columbia Public Schools. During the very first meeting I attended, I was overwhelmed with excitement and unbelievable enthusiasm when I left. In fact, when I got into my car to leave the meeting for the day, I broke down in tears because I knew that I had found my home. This district focuses on three main goals. These very important goals include increasing student achievement, eliminating achievement disparities between groups of students and maximizing our resource efficiency. We strive daily as a district team to meet these goals. It seems as though all we hear are the negative attributes about schools in the news. It is my firm belief that it is time to dwell on some of the positives. Columbia is heading in the right direction with dedicated board members, administrators, teachers, parents, community members and most of all, our precious students.

I am delighted to be part of a school district that continues to move from "good to great," as Jim Collins would say. I feel that I have finally joined a winning team that puts all children at the forefront of decision making. I feel honored to wake up every morning and know that I am part of an amazing team. As a principal, it is my job to make lemonade out of lemons. If faced with a question, an obstacle or an impending challenge, I can always remember the famous words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Nothing was ever achieved without enthusiasm."

So, regardless of whether you are a pre-education student, a para-professional, a bank employee or a retired police officer, you can always pursue a career in education. Education is one of the most difficult careers that you could ever face, but the positives of the profession immeasurably outweigh the negatives. I absolutely cannot describe the joy that being an educator in the Columbia Public Schools has brought to my life. Those who want to pursue a lifetime of happiness in the work force need to visit our school district. We pride ourselves in providing a stellar education for all children. Feel free to visit our district Web site for further information regarding our schools at

Anne Billington is the principal at Midway Heights Elementary School.




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