Photo: St. James Catholic School principal Michele Adams smiles for a photo in the school’s garden. Adams will retire this year after 30 years in education. (Katie Bohannon/Messenger)
By Emma Kirkemier, Editorial Assistant and Katie Bohannon, Staff Writer/Photographer
Michele Adams is retiring this year after a seven-year administrative tenure as principal at St. James Catholic School in Gadsden.
Adams’ history with St. James goes back many years. Before becoming principal, Adams taught fourth grade at the school, spending 20 of her 30 total years as an educator at St. James.
“Teaching and being the principal at St. James Catholic School has truly been my vocation,” she said.
Adams first served as principal at St. James in 1993, temporarily filling a one-year leave, and was offered the position permanently in 2013. She said that while she liked her first experience as principal, she was not quite ready to leave the classroom.
Adams always wanted to be a teacher and work with children, and she loved teaching her fourth-grade class. However, she described her time as principal as equally rewarding, still allowing her to connect with her students. Even though she still missed being in the classroom, Adams said she loved being the principal of “this great school.”
“My most enjoyable part of the day [as principal] is the morning when I am greeting the students,” Adams said. “I talk with them and get hugs and smiles. It is a great way to begin the day.”
Adams said that the teachers at St. James have also held a special place in her life. She is grateful that her coworkers made her transition from teacher to administrator a smooth one.
“All of the teachers accepted me in the new role and truly supported me as the transition was made,” she said. “The faculty at St. James is exceptional. The teachers work so hard, and they have a passion for the school and their students. My job was made easier because of the dedicated faculty and staff at St. James.”
Serving as principal brought Adams a different routine every day, keeping her busy and always on her toes.
“It is really hard to describe a daily routine because after the morning prayer the day begins, and it is always something different,” she said. “I stay busy from the time I arrive in the morning until I leave in the evening … At the end of the day I may look up and see it is already 6 p.m. and realize it is time to go home.”
After initially working as a secretary, Adams began feeling “unfulfilled” and decided to follow her passions in her career. She went back to school for her bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
Adams described her 30 years in education as very rewarding, expressing the joy that teaching has brought her from multiple aspects of the job.
“I have learned that I love educating our young students,” she said. “It has brought joy into my life as I watch a student learn a difficult concept. I enjoy watching the students work together to solve problems. I have learned that parents care about their children’s education and will step up to help the school because it will help their children. I have worked with the best teachers anywhere, and I have always been amazed at their dedication towards their students.”
Adams said she will miss the students, parents and faculty at St. James who made her time there so valuable. When asked about the legacy she wished to leave for St. James, Adams described the building improvements she facilitated for the school during her tenure, including new floors, carpeting and roofs, as well as updating playgrounds with rubber mulch for students’ safety.
“Mostly, I hope that the students learned how important their education is, and I hope that I was able to instill a long-time love of learning in my students,” she said.
Adams plans to garden, read, travel with her husband and work on home projects in her retirement. However, she also plans to continue her involvement at St. James by volunteering for the school.
“My message to the students would be to always do your best work and strive to be the best student you could possibly be,” she said. “Set goals and work hard to achieve them. My message to the faculty would be mainly that I am going to miss them because as I have already stated, they are the best, most dedicated teachers anywhere. I love them all, and I will miss them all.”