Berry strives to serve people in community

Berry strives to serve people in community

BY Jim Jarrett

Frenshiptoday.com

Martha Berry, Willow Bend Elementary’s principal, is leaving the school, but not leaving the profession of teaching children.

Berry said she would resign as the school’s principal at the end of the spring semester because of some health concerns.

“God put me here for a reason. He’s got something else for me now to go to,” said Berry. “I have some health uniqueness going on. It’s just hard to put in an 18-hour day every single day to take care of everybody the way I need to.

“I will spend more time with my husband (Tim Berry) My son is getting married in 2009. So my future daughter-in-law has offered to help with the future wedding plans. I want to be available to do that.”

Berry said her ultimate goal is to work in a hospital atmosphere as a liaison between children and their parents.

Berry is Willow Bend’s first principal since the school was built three years ago.

From what I understand, you are involved heavily in Calvary Baptist Church. Plus you have those 18-hour school days. How do you have time to do all this?

“God just makes the time. I am very much a scheduler, so I know Monday night is hand bells, Wednesday nights I play the chimes and Wednesday night I play in the orchestra. I work with the youth a lot.”

How long have you been teaching?

“This is my 27th year in education. It’s my fifth year as an administrator.

“I was an assistant principal (at Crestview) for two years and I taught prior to that.

“I taught primarily remedial math. I did teach third grade for two years.”

From what others say, you are a joyful person to be around. That seemed to translate so much around this school. How did you manage to bring such joy personally to your profession each day at the school?

“It was really exciting. I never dreamed I would be a principal opening a brand new school. But having that opportunity, I got to hire the whole staff.

“Through interviews, talking to people and getting references, God just sent the right people this way. I love life. Every day is a new day and our kids are so special.

“ … We went through the interview process and told (prospective teachers) we would do whatever it takes to make a child successful. We will have a positive attitude and we’ll support one another. They knew that when they came on board.

“If you came on board, you were a member of the family.”

What was the staff reaction like when you told them you were going to resign?

“Tears, hugs. That was most of it.”

What are you happiest with here at the school?

“To me, the most precious things are to see the kids. Maybe they have struggled and many of the things have been hard. But the light bulb has come on and somebody wants them to be successful. Somebody cares.

“If a child needs a hug, they can walk up to anybody around here to get a hug. If they need food, they can get food. If they need health care, we can give them health care.”

The health care center here is innovative. How did that transpire?

“Mr. (Steve) Burleson came to a Christmas program last year. We were visiting and I mentioned the need for a social worker or someone. We needed more help for our families to get resources.

“We started talking about health care. So many of our children would go to the emergency room if they had a cold. That was what the family would do since they didn’t have a primary care physician.

“Mr. Burleson said he knew a school with a clinic in it. He started looking into it. He talked to several people and myself. We thought it was a wonderful idea.

“ … We applied and received a grant. We just received the quarterly reports today. We have had about 500 visits this quarter since it opened up.”

Where did this idea of serving so many people come from?

“That’s who I am. I have always tried to serve people in every aspect. Coming in, I looked at our families and saw their needs. I thought we have to give them more. … It’s a mission field.

“You ask most teachers here and they’ll say we are on a mission here. We want to make their lives better. We are accomplishing it slowly.”

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