Repeatedly expressing her Tiger pride Tuesday with “War Eagle” references, Gov. Kay Ivey returned to the city of her college alma mater and spoke to Auburn teachers, business leaders and government officials during her “Listen, Learn, Help, & Lead Tour,” a multi-stop initiative her administration has embraced while visiting and inquiring about the needs of Alabama communities.
Talking with the media during one of her stops at the soon-to-open Auburn High School, Ivey said the city of Auburn appears to be “thriving” and contributing to the overall well-being of the state. The governor also noted how she was impressed by various innovations in the area, which she regarded as having academic, employment and economic benefits.
Such innovations ranged from advanced manufacturing at GE Aviation and pharmacy research applications at Auburn University to the establishment of the city’s newest school that will employ more than 100 faculty members and serve about 1,900 students.
“You’ve got a brand-new building, great facilities, state-of-the-art labs,” Ivey said. “Y’all seem to be doing great here in Lee County.”
Praising education efforts
Earlier in the day, the governor visited Ogletree Elementary School and addressed a roomful of incoming Auburn city school teachers. A former high school teacher, Ivey assured the teachers she was well-aware of “the hard work, the dedication and the sacrifice that’s required for one to make one’s self an effective teacher.”
“Being an effective teacher is truly a calling,” the governor said, “and I understand that, and I appreciate you all responding so beautifully to that.”
Highlighting the importance of a “strong educational foundation,” Ivey expressed her appreciation of the state’s pre-k program.
The governor likewise praised the leadership of Auburn Mayor Bill Ham, Superintendent Karen Delano and Tracie West, president of the Auburn City Schools Board of Education. She likewise commended the Auburn city school system, remarking about how many families from Montgomery have moved to the area so their children can attend the schools.
“That’s a testimony and a compliment to all of you who make these schools very successful,” Ivey said. “And what you’re doing is helping students learn and comprehend at higher levels. That’s the bottom line of what we want to do. And I just know that one of the best investments we can make in economic development is investing in education.”
Ivey, too, emphasized the importance of having a “qualified, well-trained workforce” to help attract high-ranking companies to the state.
“Education is the heartbeat of our state, in fact, and that means we should invest more in teachers and be sure that you have all the resources you need to help students learn so they can achieve at high levels,” the governor said.
Ivey said she aims to free teachers from “unneeded regulations” that hinder their teaching capabilities.
“I want to free you up so that you can spend the time that’s needed with individual students and help them learn,” she said.
Praising the roles teachers have in students’ lives, Ivey told those in the room that students, administrators, legislators, herself and others were thankful.
“What you do is a great and noble task,” the governor said. “Our children are our future. You mold our children. Thus, you mold our future.”
Made an impression
Being addressed by the governor during orientation made an impression on incoming teachers, including 23-year-old Jacksonville State University graduate Nadia Shri Turner, who will begin her first year of teaching as a kindergarten teacher at Cary Woods Elementary School.
“That was very exciting,” Turner said. “It makes me see that you can always further your education and strive for greatness.”
Matthew McVay, 29, who previously taught biology at Southern Union State Community College in Wadley and will soon begin his first year as an eighth-grade physical science teacher at Auburn Junior High School, appreciated the governor’s visit.
“It definitely emphasizes the importance of education in this city,” McVay said. “It’s encouraging to see the validation of this high-achieving school system.”
Alexandra “Allie” Black, 24, will be starting her second year as a teacher, having taught in Nashville last year. Beginning the year at Wrights Mill Road Elementary School, she expressed similar sentiments as Turner and McVay about the governor’s visit.
“It was just amazing to hear her support and that she’d behind all our educational ideas,” Black said.