Dear, Dr. Taylor

I’ve wanted to do this post for three years, more specifically at the beginning of my principalship.  I find that now is the perfect time to do it because this year marks my 7th year in administration, which is also the amount of time I spent in the classroom.  I won’t linger on the point, but if you’ve been reading my blogs you know that I’m a firm believer that things happen when they are supposed to happen.  My life is a testament of this in so many ways, and through the course of events that have happened in my life in the past six months, with losing my mother-in-law and others that were extremely close to me, I’ve developed a stronger appreciation for people who built into my life and find it important to acknowledge those individuals and “give them their flowers,” in a sense, while they still walk the face of this earth.  It is no surprise that one of those individuals is my previous principal and leader, Dr. Tiffany Taylor.

Dr. Taylor came into my life at the time I needed someone most to help guide me in the right direction.  I’d reached a point where I could basically teach Language Arts, Social Studies, and Read 180 while blindfolded, and felt stuck in limbo.  I’d also lost my mother in October of 2013, pushed through to finish my doctoral degree in February of 2014, and was looking for my next step.  Through the process of purpose, an assistant principal position opened up at my school, along with a principal’s position.  Dr. Taylor was named principal soon after, and I made her aware that I not only was interested in the position, but had also started interviewing in other counties for the same position.  Through the process of interviewing and being selected over the following months, I learned that God will anchor you when you feel like your life is drifting away from what you want out of it.  Because my wife and I had planned some trips over the ending months of school, there were some conflicts with my interview times, and I’d come to a point where I was okay knowing that it just perhaps wasn’t my time.  Over the next few days, I received a call that my interview needed to be rescheduled.  The Grace of God.

The interview went well and within the span of three days I received a call from Dr. Taylor with the job offer.  I can remember breaking down in the airport on our return from vacation and releasing some tears of joy.  Doc, which I would come to call her over the next few months, told me to enjoy the rest of my vacation and that we’d get together soon to discuss the vision for the upcoming school year.  I couldn’t wait to get back to work and begin the transition.

Over the next few months, I was a sponge, soaking up all Dr. Taylor had to offer.  I learned a lot of the organizational management pieces from Mr. Tony Hall, who was split between two schools at the time, and I learned how to leverage my instructional and curriculum knowledge to build a solid plan to increase student performance.  I can remember building my spiritual capacity during this time, oftentimes praying with our administrative team before the school day started.  We’d meet in someone’s office and pray for guidance.  The reality of it was we knew there was work to do, but the day to day work changed every day.   There was also a strong spiritual presence in the building, and we had to acknowledge it.  There was a shift, and being that I was reckoning with the fact that I didn’t have a mother who was alive on earth, I found myself opening up and sharing many things with Doc.  She was a bundle of wisdom, wit, intuition, and intelligence, and she filled a gap for me that first year that had been missing for eight months.  She was, in essence, my leader, but also my work mom.  Because I was the first assistant principal she had, we oftentimes refer to me as her “first born,” and I think the title is accurate.  She encouraged me to be great, scolded me when I wasn’t, uplifted me when I exceeded expectation, and never backed down when she needed more from me.  She made my life better and helped provide a focus for it when I was completely unsure what my next steps were.  She’s truly a lifesaver.

During years 2 and 3, we found ourselves in Orlando and Tennessee, respectively, presenting at the Model Schools Conference.  Our “little school” as we referred to it had done some great work because of the focus our leader had provided.  She ingrained in us that hope WAS NOT a strategy but a noun that carried no weight without the right work.  Even when we felt our work went unacknowledged by the appropriate personnel, Dr. Taylor’s words of wisdom for our admin team was to “just keep doing the right work and remain humble.”  That was tough to do, but because she hadn’t led any of us down the wrong path, we took her words in and did just what she said.  The value of a true leader has an unimaginable impact on people who follow.   Her words and work led to her having so many other “work children” who would eventually go on to become principals, assistant principals, instructional coaches, and teacher leaders.  She’d figure this leadership thing out in a way I’d never seen before.  I was just glad to be in the number.

So here I am, just excited to give flowers to the woman who means so much to me.  You are a true inspiration, and you’ve helped me through some tough times.  I can remember back in 2017 when I messed up, and you still didn’t give me any tissue.  You never did, and it made me stronger.  You encouraged me to keep pushing, to learn from my mistakes and to continue to grow.  You have a way of doing that without killing a person’s spirit, and your balance of care, concern, support, and accountability helped me become a strong father, husband, leader, and man of God.  I’ve met so many people throughout the course of my life that have built into it in a major way, but what you did and continue to do for me professionally is unmatched.  Spending four years under you as a building leader taught me valuable lessons that I treasure to this day.  Our team built up some hilarious stories and laughed some big, belly laughs at the end of many days.  We stayed four hours on end during “stand up,” that was supposed to only last 15 minutes, and we worked together to change lives.  The work I did with you helped me realize my purpose, and I am forever thankful to you for taking a chance on me.  I pray that God continues to bless you and your family and that you are forever acknowledged for the lives you have changed along the way.  The most exciting part is I know that your work is just beginning.  Imagine that!  To whom much is given, much is required, and although the requirement is high, you have risen and continue to exceed the standard.  Thank you a million times for changing my life.  I am forever grateful

Dr. G.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. J DukeWade says:

    Just as Dr. Taylor helped to water the seeds of greatness in you, you have and continue to do this for so many others. I thank you for your continued leadership. Even though you are not in my “chain of command”, I continue to learn from and be inspired by you. I look forward to seeing all the professionals that reap the rewards of having you as their mentor. Keep it up, Dr. G!

  2. Tony L. Hall says:

    Very well written Dr. Gardner! Leadership is a shared vision amongst leaders. Dr. Taylor planted a seed of knowledge into all of her leaders in which we all have blossomed. It should be well in all of our soul to honor the person(s) that have made a different in our lives. Give people their flowers while they are living so that they can smell and see the goodness that they have done for other. Thanks for your leadership Dr. Taylor! Between You , Dr. Gardner and Mrs. Douglas, as little this old fellow poured into you all, you all have filled me with more. I know for a fact that the students, teachers and community have a brighter future with you guys leading the charge. I am forever grateful of the shared knowledge each of you gave me and particular you Dr. Tiffany Taylor. Your Love for people and their success makes you standout from everyone else. God Speed to you and my fellow leaders’ Success.
    Tony Hall.

  3. Donald Warren says:

    An awesome tribute to an AWESOME lady! Well written Dr. G

  4. Ginny Chauhan says:

    I am in that same boat as you were years ago and I can never thank you enough for believing in my and giving me a chance at this new position! I know I will grow and I KNOW God put me exactly where I am supposed to be at the time I needed to be there. The greatest gift I am given is when I know a student feels comfortable enough that they want to pour out their feelings to me, but what they don’t understand, is they are watering the seeds that were planted in me and they truly make a much bigger difference in my life then I think I do in theirs. My KRMS and RRMS students have welcomed me and I am SO grateful, honored, and blessed to be at both of these schools. Once again, thank you for taking a chance on me!

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