Coe felt the time was right to retire

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

With a background teaching science for 26 years, Annette Coe likes to apply logic in her role as principal at Liberty Hill Junior High, but she still tears up on occasion when she talks about how proud she is of her kids.

After 37 years in public education, Coe is retiring to spend more time with her family, especially her grandchildren, and enjoy some uninterrupted sleep.

“I’m looking forward to not waking up at four in the morning and not being able to go back to sleep because I’m worrying about this person or this kid or this situation,” she said. “You worry about them a lot.”

That worry is just one of many signs that signal how much teaching and being a positive part of the lives of junior high students means to Coe.

“I’ve always had junior high kids except for the seven years I was at the ninth-grade center in Georgetown,” she said. “When I tell people I have junior high kids people say I’m crazy, but they keep you on your toes, they keep you young, and it’s never a dull moment.”

Teaching was not Coe’s original plan, but her love of science and some inspiration from her own teachers led her to where she is finishing up a career 37 years later.

“I love science,” she said. “I loved my biology teacher in high school, I’m still in contact with her on Facebook, and she is a great lady and mentor. That’s one of the reasons I always had it in the back of my mind to teach.”

Her thought process and approach to problem-solving made science the right choice.

“A lot of science is just common sense,” she said. “I’m a logical person, I’m not an artsy-craftsy person. This fits with my personality.”

Sharing those moments of understanding with students over the years has always been special.

“I love doing labs and seeing the aha moment with the kids when they figure something out,” Coe said. “It makes your day when you see that, it is very rewarding.”

In her 11 years as an administrator in Liberty Hill, the last four of which she has served as junior high principal, Coe’s chance to watch kids grow came from a different angle.

“It is fun to watch them grow and mature and it just clicks that ‘I’m not the most important person in the world,’” she said. “It’s a tough time for parents.”

She sees parents today wanting to be friends, but Coe says parents need to focus on making those hard decisions and not being their child’s friend and making it all okay.

“They want to ride in on a white horse and fix everything,” she said. “Part of growing up is struggling. You’ve got to make those mistakes. You’ve got to figure out what you did wrong so you don’t repeat it. Now’s the best time to do that when they’re still young.”

Learning from mistakes is something she sees as a valuable part of growing up and maturing, especially at that age.

“Parents nowadays want to make everything smooth, they don’t want to have any bumps in the road,” she said. “That’s not what life is.”

Her recipe for success is simple: treat students with respect and remind them you are not holding it against them.

“I come in and I say ‘Hey, you messed up. Tomorrow is a new day. Don’t repeat this same mistake,’” she said. “They have to learn from it, that’s the whole point of life is to figure out what you did wrong and make sure you don’t do it again.”

That scientific approach to solving problems has also been helpful in keeping a campus running smoothly.

“I find solutions to things,” she said. “That logic has helped me figure things out and come up with a better way to do something. I think that has helped here. Running a school, there are so many decisions that have to be made in a few seconds.”

And even though she is not in the classroom teaching lessons, Coe believes she is every bit as much a teacher as she was years ago.

“I still consider myself a teacher but I spend more time teaching the adults now,” she said. “But I also get to teach the kids, but it’s not classroom stuff, you teach behaviors more.”

What she will miss most is that brand new start every August.

“It’s a new slate to start and you have new kids coming in,” Coe said. “You’re thinking of all the possibilities they have, and new teachers you’ve hired. That’s a lot of fun.”

On the other end, the testing and all of the red tape it comes with today is something she finds frustrating.

“That is probably the hardest time for us,” she said. “The next hardest time is when I have eighth graders in my office and they didn’t pass the STAAR Test and I’m having to tell them. That’s difficult. You try very hard to say it’s just a test, it has nothing to do with them as a person.”

Coe knows there is merit in such testing, but she wishes everyone involved in mandating the tests would have to understand what it is really like.

“I wish our legislators would come to the schools when we are getting ready for the test and see everything that’s involved, the time commitment involved with all the staff just to get the logistics of how to put 693 kids in classrooms to take a test,” Coe said.

With the upcoming transition in grade levels a number of campuses in Liberty Hill and the addition of a new middle school, Coe felt this was the right time to retire.

“I think that as things change, I looked back and I said they need some new blood to come in and help with the changes,” Coe said. “Going from a junior high to a middle school, adding a sixth grade, is a different mindset. I thought to myself it is probably better to just pull the bandaid off all at once.”

She didn’t want to be retiring as those changes were being made.

“Now is the time to step back so as they get ready to open a second junior high they have things in place so there is consistency,” Coe said. “If I had stayed another year or so, I would have put a little bump in the road as far as being able to build the consistency between this campus and that campus. You have to get someone in here who can get this campus ready for the growth and then train a person, with this person, who will be taking on that new campus.”

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