Polk High’s Peoples to retire after 39 years in education

Published 8:54 pm Monday, December 27, 2010

Polk County High School teacher Alan Peoples has announced his retirement from education after 39 years of service.

His retirement is effective Dec. 31, so his last day in the classroom was Tuesday, Dec. 21.

Peoples plans to continue coaching track and field through this school year.

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I have had a great career in Polk County, said Peoples in his retirement letter. This faculty is the reason that PCHS has its accolades and successes and is held in high esteem by many both inside and outside the county border. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this journey to help the youth of Polk County.

Peoples has worn many hats through his teaching career, from teacher and coach to athletic director and principal. He began teaching and coaching in February, 1972 after graduating with a B.S. in education from the University of Tennessee.

He obtained his master’s in educational administration from the University of South Carolina in 1979 and continued his education through 1990.

Peoples first worked in education at Epsom High School in Henderson, N.C.,as a teacher, basketball coach and athletic director. He said one of his proudest moments was at Epsom when the school dedicated the yearbook to him in the 1974-75 school year.

Thats memorable, he said.

Other accomplishments Peoples said he is proud of are receiving the teacher of the year award when he taught at Tryon Middle School.

Thats the highest honor you can get in education, he said.

Peoples was also nominated for teacher of the year five times while at Polk High.

Peoples said he is also proud of the many athletes he has coached who went on to compete at the collegiate level. His first athlete to gain a scholarship was Robbie McFarland, who received a scholarship for track, and Peoples said he will never forget that.

He said about 30 athletes he coached went on to play or run in college, with four athletes going on to the college level last year.

Peoples said he is very proud of his many students over the years.

99.9 percent of the kids who ever worked and came through my class will be successful, he said.

And recently, he said, he has taught students whose parents he also taught.

Peoples taught or was principal or assistant principal at numerous local schools throughout his career, including Stearns Elementary School, Mill Spring Elementary School, Polk County Isothermal Community College, Polk Central High School, Tryon Elementary School, Tryon Middle School, Tryon High School and Polk County High School.

Prior to coming to Polk County, he worked for Epsom High School, Louisburg High School&bsp; in Louisburg, N.C., and Sumter High School in Sumter, S.C.

He served as principal at Stearns, Mill Spring, Tryon Elementary, Tryon Middle and Tryon High Schools and was assistant principal at Polk Central High School.

Courses he taught through his career included language arts for several grades, numerous English courses, creative writing, journalism, public speaking, U.S. history, government, economics, biology, Spanish, physical science, psychology and physical education. He also managed the yearbook, newspaper and magazine staffs for schools.

Peoples retired as a Lt. Col. in 2000 from the U.S. Army Reserves after beginning as an ROTC cadet in 1969. While in the military, Peoples received the National Defense Service Medal with Oak Leaf, the Army Achievement Medal and the Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf.

His political career began when he served as the Polk County Board of Commissioners chairman from 1996 to 1998 and vice-chairman from 1999 to 2000. He is currently the Tryon mayor and has held that position since 2001.

Peoples coaching career began in 1974 as the head basketball coach at Epsom High School and athletic director. He began coaching track at Tryon High School in 1986. He was the state track director and the regional track director for 17 years, the state indoor track co-director for three years and the cross country regional director for many years as well as coaching the junior Olympics track from 1989 to 1997. He was awarded the conference coach of the year for track in 1991, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010.

I will miss it immensely, Peoples said this week. But, its like everything else. One door closes and another opens.

He said he and his wife, Harriet, plan to do some traveling and they also have plans to restore their home in Tryon.

The bittersweet part is that I love the kids, Peoples said. I do. Am I going to cry on Jan. 3? Maybe. But Im still going to do some volunteer coaching this year.