Saying goodbye won’t be easy
Published 6:30 pm Friday, March 11, 2005
By By RANDI K. PICKLEY / Niles DAily Star
NILES - Betty Perkins, the principal at Niles High School, is retiring from a life-long career in education.
The desk in her office is a history of her life as an educator, woman, and friend. Under the glass top covering her desk, a photo collection of memories unfolds, each with its own story.
There are pictures of graduating seniors, staff members, children and grandchildren, and even some of Muhammed Ali. Included in the menagerie is a treasured photo of President George W. Bush and the First Lady standing in front of Niles High School with Perkins.
Growing up in Ohio, Perkins spent her summers working as a lifeguard and as an aquatics director for the local YMCA. She attended Wittenberg University with a double major in psychology and sociology. Her master's degree is from Western Michigan University in social studies comprehensive and educational leadership.
Her list of credentials is impressive, but as she often emphasizes, "There is nothing I accomplished in life without all the other people to help."
She has been a member of the Noon Optimist Club, Kiwanis, Habitat for Humanity, and the YMCA board. But, Perkins mentions, "With an inconsistent schedule like mine, it's hard to find the time to commit."
Yet her commitment to the field of education and the the welfare of its children is legendary. In the 1970s, Perkins was a fitness instructor at Southwestern Michigan College and a substitute teacher in grades K-12 in the Cassopolis Schools. From 1978 to 1985 she taught Government, Sociology, Western Tradition, U.S. History, AP-U.S. History, and Psychology, and Adult Education. In 1985 she worked with the Gifted and Talented Program of the Southwest Michigan Consortium.
In 1988 Perkins accepted the job of principal and teacher of general studies at the South Bend Hebrew Day School in Mishawaka, Ind.
In 1991 Perkins accepted the position of Assistant Principal at Ring Lardner Middle School. Then she joined Doug Law, principal of Niles High School at that time. Then he accepted the position of Superintendent of Schools.
Perkins remembers, "I was putting up bulletin boards when I got a call from Doug Law offering me the job of principal at Niles." Her reply was, "But I'm putting up bulletin boards."
Perkins has a brother who lives in Melbourne, Australia. Her father, whom she adored, was the president of F.E. Meyers Corporation. "My mom taught me a life-long love of words and reading," Perkins said. They all call her "Betts."
Her husband, Bill, is a retired psychologist. They met while she was at the YMCA. "He came in to work out," Perkins said, "and it worked out."
And then there are her children and grandchildren: a son who is a teacher near Louisville, Ky. and another son who is president of an ad agency in Columbus, Ohio.
She has two grandchildren. "One is almost three and the other just turned four," Perkins said. "They're wonderful. I love it when they say 'Oh Gwamma, I miss you," Perkins beams.
Perkins has enjoyed her journey through the educational system and said, "There's lots of variety in this job."
She reminisces about the changesin the educational system over the years. "A students are active participants in their own learning now, but it used to be teacher centered. Teachers taught "at" you," Perkins said. Educators are also more aware of differentiation in the student body, according to Perkins. "We realize now that people learn in different ways," she said.
Perkins also observed, "The world is a lot bigger now. Kids are much more aware." And then there are all the changes due to advancing technology.
Looking forward to a more relaxed schedule after her last day as principal on June 30, Perkins said, "I plan to spend more time being a grandma."
When asked what she'll miss the most, Perkins replied, "The people … the people."