School's out for veteran teacher Jennings

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By Todd Martin

In 1966 Ernestine Jennings graduated from Shelby County High School, and now, for the second time, she's leaving the school.

After teaching for 41 years, the first six at Shelbyville High School, and the rest at SCHS, Jennings, 61, has retired.

"It just seemed like the right time," she said. "I've been thinking about it for a while, the first time in 2002. But then I just decided I wasn't quite ready."

Jennings leads a retirement list this year that is filled with many long-time educators,  especially from SCHS. Maj. Art Edinger, Assistant Principal Mike Zoeller and Albert Jordan have put in years and years of service.

"It seems to go in waves," Jennings said.

Jennings was always one who seemingly loved her job more than anything else.

She was the perfect embodiment of the old mantra 'find something you love to do, and you'll never work a day in your life."

"A sense of community is so important within any organization," she said. "I was very fortunate to have many years of stability with colleagues that love what they did. They realized that people are more important than programs, and as a result I had many wonderful relationships."

Along with her parents, Mildred and Ernest Jennings, she noted several others in the field that left lasting marks on her.

"My parents were wonderful supporters and encouragers along with colleagues like Dr. Debbie Hall, Maj. Art Edinger, Sam Chandler -- who was just a wonderful principal -- Clyde and Linda Tharp, Phil Bell and Elaine Waits.

"Those were some of the many defining people in my life, and as I tell my students, there were many, many more," she said.

Jennings said she told the staff at SCHS to look for those relationships.

"I told them I hope they all have the opportunity to work in relationships like I had, whether it's with Mr. [Eddie] Oakley or Mr. [Anthony] Hatchell or another principal," she said.

Now, Jennings will look for something to replace that enjoyment she received from work.

"I'll miss that contact with students," she said, pausing with the emotion of leaving a place and position she loved dearly. "Seeing young people become good productive members of society...that has been the most rewarding."

Jennings said she would continue to stay active at Salem Baptist Church, where she teaches a senior adult Sunday school class and is a member of the historical committee.

She also will continue to work with the teacher's sorority Alpha Delta Kappa and work with the Pflughaupt Scholarship.

"If the opportunity to work with children comes up again, I will certainly take it," she said. "I will continue to volunteer with the Adopt-a-Child program [at the school]. That was something that was worked out in advance."

But later this year, when the middle of August rolls around, and students and teachers are preparing for that first day of school, what will Jennings do?

"I have been told by a very wise friend to find some place to go or something to do for about two weeks in the middle of August," she said. "I think that is very good advice."

2009/2010 retirees from Shelby County Public Schools

Carol Barrett - Simpsonville clerk

Brenda Breidert - Simpsonville teacher

Iris Brown - Simpsonville teacher

Carolyn Waford - Simpsonville custodian

Phyllis Blackaby - Wright teacher

Anne Sheen - Wright custodian

Maria Gordon -- East Middle School teacher

Betsy Miller - West Middle School teacher

Grant Hays - East/West teacher

Diane Cantrill - SCHS teacher

Jackie Case - SCHS teacher

Maj. Art Edinger - SCHS ROTC instructor

Gail Ford - SCHS teacher

Ernestine Jennings - SCHS teacher

Albert Jordan - SCHS teacher

Denise Ruffra - SCHS teacher

Phyllis Spotts - SCHS student assistant program

Mike Zoeller - SCHS assistant principal

William Jackson -- Cropper teacher

Fred Allen - Bus driver

Alan Eichel - Bus driver

Larry Logsdon - Bus driver/trainer

Howard Shouse - Bus driver

Judy Wright - Bus driver

James Runner - Bus monitor

Anne Weaver - Educational diagnostician

Bennie Cooper -- Maintenance