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African-American Chamber to honor leaders (video)

By JR Ortega
Nov. 13, 2013 at 5:13 a.m.
Updated Nov. 14, 2013 at 5:14 a.m.

Carol Tippins, associate director of elementary curriculum, instruction and accountability with Victoria school district, talks with Troy White, the assistant principal at Vickers Elementary School, at the end of a training session at Dudley Elementary School. Tippins will receive an award for her work in education on Thursday from the African-American Chamber of Commerce.

You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but it's impossible to take the teacher out of the person - just ask Carol Tippins.

With a hearty laugh and genuine smile, it is still evident the longtime educator has the heart of a teacher.

"I'm more about giving than getting," she said.

Tippins, a 56-year-old Victoria educator of 26 years, is one of four community members to be honored by the African-American Chamber of Commerce on Thursday night during its distinguished honoree banquet. She will receive the education award.

Tippins, who is now the associate director of elementary curriculum, instruction and accountability with the Victoria school district, said her journey to become a teacher is anything but typical.

Marrying at 16, she spent her first several years finishing school until she re-realized her dream of becoming a teacher in her late 20s.

At 27, she decided to attend University of Houston-Victoria and earn her degree in education. She graduated in three years and landed a job in Yoakum, where she lived with her husband and children.

She began teaching fourth grade at Yoakum when she heard something from her principal at the time that she never thought she'd hear.

"You're going to be a principal," said Nancy West, one of her earliest mentors.

In her first year, Tippins was not sure what to think. She just kept thinking how she wanted, since she was a child, to teach children.

Tippins listened, though.

She went back to school to receive her masters in education in mid-management, and at 34, she became an assistant principal at Juan Linn Elementary School.

"It really doesn't feel like the journey has been that long," she said. "I feel like I should be worn out and tired, but I'm not."

Tippins spent three years at Juan Linn and then accepted her first principal job at Mission Valley Elementary School. She stayed there three years as well.

Her most recent position, however, was her 15-year principal stint at Smith Elementary School.

She still gets teary-eyed when she thinks of that experience and how much she misses her Smith family.

"Every year, there was a new challenge. I love my school family. I miss them even now," she said. "And leaving kids, well, I just couldn't see it."

As principal, much of her time was spent ensuring the teachers were all on the same page when working with the curriculum.

Even in that position, she felt she had an impact on the students through teaching the teachers.

One of those former teachers, Michelle Graves, said Tippins had a profound impact on her life.

Graves has known Tippins for about 16 years. Graves started as a teacher, but after Tippins persuaded her to earn her master's degree - just like Tippins was encouraged to do - her life changed.

"She was a wonderful mentor and leader. She led by example," Graves said. "She wants you to do your best and sees your potential."

Graves eventually became Tippins' assistant principal, and when the school district restructured several positions, promoting Tippins into her current position, Graves became principal.

As the associate director of elementary curriculum, instruction and accountability, Tippins works with the principals at the district's 17 elementary schools to ensure each school is on the same page so that they all succeed.

"Nobody could have ever told me we were doing so many different things at different campuses," she said. "It's wonderful to see us come together and be a unit."

Tippins said that although she can get ready to retire, she has no intention of doing that.

Education is her life.

"I guess I've made my own sunshine," she said laughing. "I love what I'm doing now, and I can't see myself doing anything else."



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