TES Principal Williams retires

Published 9:17 am Friday, July 1, 2011

Holden, Isabella, Malakhi and Sydney… outgoing Tryon Elementary School (TES) Principal Walker Williams knows each student’s first name as they are etched on his heart.

Walker Williams

Walker made his retirement from TES official at the Polk County Board of Education meeting June 27. His last day was Thursday, June 30.
“I am thankful and feel blessed to have had this opportunity,” Williams told BOE members. “The students have been a joy in my life and the faculty and staff have been a great group to work with over my years at the school. I know the future will be bright for the school and I leave with much love in my heart for the students past and present.”
Teacher Ann Sellers said there would never be another like 78-year-old Williams.
“He was always on top of things and always wanted what was best for the kids,” said Sellers, who began her own teaching career under Williams 24 years ago. “He was in the cafeteria, he was in car lines, he was listening to the buses – he was Tryon Elementary.”
Teacher Pam Vining recalled how Williams’ face would light up when he saw the kids walking into school each morning or when he greeted those who ate breakfast at school.
“It makes his day to see those kids walk into that school. He really wants the best for these kids and wants them to get a good education,” Vining said. “He was just a beloved principal and principals like that don’t come around a lot.”
Though he often arrived at school at 6 a.m., wouldn’t leave until after 6 p.m. and showed up regularly on the weekends for community programs, Williams remained quiet about his accomplishments.
“He never wanted credit given to him, he always wanted his teachers to stand out and he wanted people to know the teachers and students were doing the work,” Vining said.
Sellers said Williams was one of the first people to say that after-school programs were important, long before everyone else caught on. She said Williams pulled that program together for TES even when they had to use nothing but local funds to support it.
Williams also initiated a program to take fifth-graders on college tours so they would become exposed to college environments and see that it was something that could be in their future, Vining said.
“He runs a really good school and we have really good test scores but the reason we have really good tests scores is because everyone works as a team,” Sellers said. “He trusts every teacher to do what they should do but if you need something you can ask him.”
Under Williams, TES has been named a School of Excellence every year since the award was established in 1999.
“He’s very effective, but he doesn’t toot his own horn,” Sellers said. “Even the way he announced his retirement, was just the way he was. He made an all-call, ‘This is Walker Williams, Tryon Elementary; it’s official, I’m retired.’ That’s all he said.”
Vining said she wishes Williams good health in retirement and she said she hopes he can find something to keep him occupied and happy.
“To me, for the kids of Tryon Elementary School, he’s just given so many years to us and we’re just thankful for what he’s given to us,” Vining said. “I’m letting him leave with a lot of grateful thoughts. He’s given just about his whole life to Tryon Elementary.”
Williams served a total of 45 years in public education in both South Carolina and North Carolina. Twenty of those total years were spent at Tryon Elementary.
“Mr. Williams will be greatly missed by Polk County Schools and Tryon Elementary School in particular. He has always had high expectations for himself, his teachers and his students,” said Superintendent Bill Miller. “I believe his contributions to public education are far reaching and I will miss him and his unwavering love for students.”

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