Pounders retiring after 36 years
Franklin County Times
When students return to class Jan. 10, there will be something missing at Russellville High School for the first time since 1972.
Judy Pounders, the school's guidance counselor since 1996, will officially retire Dec. 31 after 36 years in the city schools system. Prior to becoming counselor, she taught reading at West Elementary and high school English at Russellville.
Her former students span two generations, and Pounders has taught 27 percent of the current teachers and administrators in the city system, including Russellville Elementary School principal Kristy Ezzell and RES assistant principal Dr. Chris James and Central Office curriculum coordinator Susan Hall.
"I remember this really pretty, petite student teacher walking into my eleventh grade English class, and I thought high school students would eat her up. But she took control of that classroom with complete professionalism and without raising her voice – Judy has something we refer to as 'the look." Hall said. "I had already made plans to become a teacher, and she was a great role model. She was my teacher to begin with, and then she became a friend and a colleague. We've become so close that we joke about being sisters because we think a lot alike."
Pounders has worked with six principals at Russellville High School and three superintendents, and she has been part of many special events at the school.
"Our system takes a lot of pride in its accomplishments, whether it's music programs, academics or athletics," she said. "I co-chaired the school's 75th anniversary celebration in 2004, and it was a big event because we invited all previous class officers to set up a table and recognized all the former homecoming queens at the football game. The celebration was a really special time for the school system."
After teaching for 24 years, Pounders became a guidance counselor because she was ready for a new challenge but didn't want to leave the school system.
"After 20-plus years of teaching, I wanted a change in careers, and I was not ready to stop working," she said. "I love working with young people and I felt like I could be helpful to high school students from the guidance perspective."
Pounders has established several ways to help students prepare for college, including constant updates to the school Web site, weekly newsletters and workshops. In a graduating class of 127 seniors last May, 66 Russellville students received approximately $1.4 million in scholarships and financial aid.
"Students need to be prepared academically and be competitive beyond our walls. They should be informed, meet deadlines and be thorough. With scholarships, you can't be passive – you have to be active. We push students to apply because if you don't apply, you can't get a scholarship," she said.
Pounders said her teaching philosophy focused more on students than the subjects she taught.
"Teaching isn't just a career – it's a way you can share your abilities and experience with others," said Pounders, who earned a bachelor's degree in education and master's degrees in education and school counseling from the University of North Alabama and also served as an adjunct professor at Northwest-Shoals Community College for three years. "If you're just here for the job, you won't be as effective. You've got to teach kids first, and then teach your subject. Even though students act like they don't care, they still want you to care about them. There's no better way to make a friend than to teach and help that person."
Donna Goodwin, an assistant counselor and math teacher at Russellville, will become the full-time counselor in January and has spent the past several months working alongside Pounders.
"Mrs. Goodwin was hired July 1, and she's going to be an asset to the school and the students," Pounders said. "She's no rookie because she has previous experience in guidance counseling in other places, and she's already taught an algebra class here at Russellville. And students have a way of helping you learn them."
Hall said one of Pounders' best qualities is her ability to relate to anyone.
"If you're in a conversation with her, professionally or personally, she thinks carefully about how her words will affect the other person," Hall said.
"She almost has the ability to read minds, and she is a great reader of people. That was so important in her job while working with students and parents. She had to be able to understand different walks of life, and she always had the ability to make them feel at ease. With her, it's all about the student and helping that child succeed to the best of his or her ability."
Pounders, who is married to Terry Pounders and has two sons, Darren and Dusten, said she doesn't have immediate plans to take a vacation or travel. Instead, she is looking forward to taking care of her 8-month-old granddaughter, Mylee.
"I've been pretty much a workaholic, but now I'm going to keep my grandbaby. My mother-in-law kept my children when I was teaching, and I'm thankful to do that," said Pounders, who has also worked part-time at The Cottage gift shop for the past 15 years.
Pounders, who enjoys reading and cooking, said she also planned to be more active in her church, Calvary Baptist in Russellville.
"Judy will not be still – God has given her time and she likes to use it wisely, and that's something I admire about her. She has been a great mentor to me, and I'm going to miss working with her, although she will continue to be a family friend," Hall said.
Sommer Pounders, who is Mylee's mother and is married to Dusten, has worked with Hall to plan a retirement reception for Pounders Jan. 13 at Calvary Baptist Church from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
"This reception will be given by Judy's friends and family, and all of her former students and the general public are invited to attend," Hall said.