Lisa Barnett has called Tate Elementary home since her fourth year of teaching and she has seen it all, even an engagement in her classroom.
“It is a wonderful school,” she said. “Everyone cares.”
Barnett lives in Pickens County with her husband, Dwight, their son Presley, who she taught in fourth grade, and their three dogs. She has a son, Tanis, from her first marriage, and two “bonus” daughters, Ashley and Mattie.
All in the family
Barnett’s parents were both teachers and she credits them with instilling the love of teaching in her. Although she was born in Tate, her family moved soon after to Valdosta, where her father, Gerald Allen taught business.
When she was four, he was called and asked if he’d consider coming back to Tate to teach and he said he would if my mom could teach, too,” she said.
Her mom, Martha, began teaching at Tate Elementary. Barnett said her father wanted to teach elementary school, but during the 1960s, men didn’t teach in the elementary schools.
Barnett started her teaching career in Cherokee County and taught there the first three years. Shortly before her fourth year started, she received a phone call asking if she’d be interested in teaching at Tate.
She readily agreed.
“I ended up teaching in the classroom across the hall from my mother,” she recalled.
Tate Elementary School
And Tate has become home. The school is almost 100 years old, built in 1928 and still has all wooden floors lining the halls of the iconic marble school.
“I’ve been roaming these halls for 40 years,” she said.
During the 1970s, a mural was painted in the library of students who used to go the school. It’s a mainstay and Barnett is routinely asked if it is still there by former students.
“Several years ago, we had a principal who wanted to paint over it. I told (the principal) it wasn’t a good idea,” said Barnett, who then called some of her friends to tell them the situation. Enough people leaned on the principal that the mural stayed.
She has taught math, science, and social studies. But she hasn’t simply stayed in the classroom. Barnett has taught hospital and home-bound students off and on for 20 years.
“I enjoyed it, it’s been one of the most rewarding,” she said. “I enjoyed getting to know the families.”
For the many years, Barnett has been the yearbook adviser, helping students create the keepsake. She tries to incorporate the history of the school into the book. Although she enjoys it, now that her time at Tate is winding down, she says she needs to pass the torch to someone else.
READ PICKENS PLANS FOR THE 2020-2021 SCHOOL YEAR HERE.
She has also coached the swimming team for the last two years and although she enjoys coaching, the travelling involved gets hard.
When asked how she started coaching the swim team, Barnett laughed. “I saw the opening and thought it would be fun. Coaching was on my bucket list,” she said.
Engagement and Gifts
“I had a student who met his future wife when they were in my third grade class. He asked if he could propose to her in there, so I had to get the room cleaned up,” she laughs. “He had lunch for them and proposed in the class room.”
One of her students has missed her so much that he had his mom bring Barnett gifts for Teacher Appreciation Week, Mother’s Day, and her birthday, which all fell during the same week.
“We talk everyday,” she said.
Barnett said she plans to retire after her youngest son graduates from high school. Teachers are allowed to present their children with their diplomas so she is waiting in order to present Presley with his.
This will give her a chance to indulge in traveling. She and her husband of 18 years, Dwight, want to travel. She said they’ve recently considered a trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania.
She is also considering applying for a position with Pickens Virtual Academy, where she will assist the students in the program with their classes.
“I’m not sure how it works, but it looked interesting,” she said.
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