By Mary Ann Ellis
Cathy Campbell has been in the classrooms of Appling County for the last forty years, either as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, or principal. Currently, she serves as principal of the Appling County Middle School.
“I love my job,” Cathy said. “Sometimes I think about retiring because I’ve been around for a long, long time, but there are so many projects that I want to see finished. We just finished remodeling the school, which was quite an accomplishment, and I’m very proud of it. A few other projects are in the wings, and I’d like to see them finished as well. I know plenty of people could do my job as well as or better than I do, but I’m just not ready to quit yet. People tell me that I’ll know when it’s time. We’ll see. But I know for certain that I’m not ready yet.”
Cathy is the daughter of Fannie Mae and the late Earl McDaniel. She has two sisters and one brother. She is married to David Campbell, and they have one son, Bret, who’s married to Jennifer Williams. Of the three Campbell grandchildren, two are still in high school. Rylan, a junior at the high school, is going soon to state competition in cross country; his team has done exceptionally well this year. Colin, a sophomore, plays baseball. Maysi, the only granddaughter, is married and lives right next door to Cathy and David. David retired recently from Plant Hatch but works outages at nuclear plants all over the country. Right now, he’s working in Illinois.
“We’ve had an opportunity to travel a lot with his job,” Cathy said. “We’ve been to New Jersey, New York, and lots of other places. He’s even been to Spain.”
Her favorite place in their work-related travels was California; they went there one summer. David worked at Diablo Canyon Power Plant, and they lived in a small quaint beach town on the Pacific Coast-Avila Beach. Among other things, they visited San Francisco, the Hearst Castle, Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Red Wood Forest, Disneyland, and Napa Valley; they also rode the Pacific Coast Highway on a Harley. What an adventure!
Cathy says her mama and daddy believed in hard work and raised them to work. Cathy worked in tobacco in the summertime for her grandparents, Gaston and Orien White, who paid helpers eight dollars a day for the work, but her mother wouldn’t allow them to pay Cathy that much. She only got five dollars a day. When she finished school, she went to work with Morris Industries and worked there until she moved to the school system.
“My parents taught us that if you wanted something, you had to work hard for it,” Cathy laughed. “Nothing was handed to us on a silver platter. My mama used to work at the board of education office, and when a vacancy for a secretary occurred at the vocational office at the high school, I applied for and got the job, working first for Randall Tuten and later for Bud Stoner. As I watched the teachers every day, I realized that I wanted to do more with my life, to make a difference for children as they did, so I went back to school and earned my degrees. ”
By then, she had married and had Bret. She found it hard to go to college, work, and take care of a baby, but her mother helped her quite a lot by taking care of the baby. Cathy graduated from Tift College with an undergraduate degree and then went to Georgia Southern for her masters, six-year, leadership, and doctorate degrees. She says she couldn’t allow herself to quit because she feared she’d always wonder in her heart if she should had done more.
“Once I got my degree, I didn’t think I’d get a job,” Cathy said. “One summer we went to the beach and Mr. Bryant, principal at Fourth District Elementary, called me and offered me a job. I taught there for the first ten years of my teaching career. I then transferred to the elementary school; when they built this middle school, I came here, and I’ve been here ever since. I had the opportunity to see and work with some really good leaders and learn from them. I keep an open mind and listen to other people’s opinions. After Jimmy Allen retired, Keith Johnson became principal, and I applied for and got the position of assistant principal. Next, Dr. Overstreet and then Chris Roppe served as principal. I got the principal’s position when Chris left, and I love it.”
After 40 years, she still enjoys her job. The school is a part of her. She feels such a passion for it. She says that she still sits back, listens, and tries to learn something every day from someone. She doesn’t ever want to stop learning, no matter how old she is or whether she’s working or not.
She enjoys going to Crossfit across the street from the school in her spare time; it’s an outlet for stress relief. She loves to read—John Grisham has always been a favorite author until his last book, which she didn’t care for. She will probably give him another chance though. She recently read and enjoyed The Giver of the Stars, a historical-fiction book about the beginning of the postal service and women’s role in it. Of course, she enjoys spending time with her family.
“I couldn’t do what I do without the team I work with,” Cathy said. “Coach Hayes goes over and beyond his call every day, and we have an incredible staff.”
She’s come a long way since Mr. Bryant talked her into teaching a second and third grade combination class back in the early years of her career. She did it, but says she nearly pulled her hair out that year.
“I appreciate Appling County for the support and the opportunities I’ve had over these forty years in education,” Cathy said. “I’ve always worked with people that I could work really well with. We have a wonderful school system here in this county, and I am blessed to have been a part of it for so long. I think I’ll hang around just a little bit longer before I go home.”