Parental support and dedicated teachers help students face changes and challenges in life

(Editor's note: How do classroom teachers and mentors mold a future school superintendent? Dr. Judy Blevins, director of Elizabethton City Schools, was asked to explain how her parents, teachers and mentors influenced her to pursue a career in the field of education.)

By Bob Robinson
Star Staff
brobinson@starhq.com

   Parents and teachers make an indelible impression that lasts a lifetime.
   Such was the case with Dr. Judy Blevins, director of Elizabethton City Schools, who grew up in the Bunker Hill Community, along Indian Creek, where Carter County and Sullivan County lines meet.
   Dr. Blevins is the daughter of the late Jack and Dora Carr. "I quickly learned in my home there was no discrimination from my parents when it came to working in the tobacco fields."
   Dr. Blevins joined her sister, Paula, and brothers, Jackie and Jerry, in harvesting crops and doing other farm chores at their modest home.
   "I wouldn't trade my childhood experiences for any other," said Dr. Blevins, who also has fond memories of teachers and mentors who inspired her as a student, and later as a teacher, in Elizabethton City Schools.
   One of her favorites was Evelyn Rader, who read Brier Rabbit to her third-grade students. Others, she said, were Hannah Crockett, Evelyn Harden, Irene Hoss, J. Frank Edens, "who had a wonderful expertise in teaching English," and Judy Richardson, "who opened a whole new door to students in the area of physical education." The latter two, most likely, influenced Dr. Blevins to major in English and physical education in college, she said.
   At Elizabethton High School (EHS), Dr. Blevins became one of the first female students to enroll in vocational agriculture taught by Buddy Farmer.
   "I had to beg him to let me in his class. Finally, when he did, I brought 13 more girls with me to enroll. You should have seen the look on his face. That might have been the beginning of vocational education for girls at EHS," Dr. Blevins said.
   Harry Fine, vocational education director and general business and trade instructor, was another mentor for Dr. Blevins. "He always had encouraging words for his students to excel.
   "Mr. Fine would often say: 'You can be whatever you want.' He wouldn't give up on any student."
   Dr. Blevins received a bachelor's degree in physical education and English from ETSU and began her job search.
   In 1980, she landed her first job back at Keenburg Elementary School, where she taught fourth through eighth grades and coached basketball. Tom Little, another mentor, was the school principal.
   Her next assignment was EHS, where she taught English and coached the women's basketball team and also served as cheerleader sponsor.
   Dr. Blevins' next career move was to West Side Elementary School to teach the second grade. Dr. Little, principal at West Side at that time, encouraged Dr. Blevins to pursue a master's degree in the field of education. "I chose reading, absolutely my favorite subject to teach."
   Dr. Blevins also completed requirements for Career Ladder III, master teacher level, and soon began working on a doctorate while teaching at West Side.
   In 1995, Dr. Blevins was appointed special education director of Elizabethton City Schools (ECS) under Dr. Jessie Strickland, then director of schools. Changes kept occurring in Dr. Blevins' career path.
   Dr. Blevins was later named assistant superintendent of schools and director of curriculum under Dr. Dale Lynch, superintendent.
   In 1996, Dr. Blevins received a doctorate in Administration and Supervision with an emphasis on special education from ETSU.
   In September 2001, Dr. Blevins was appointed to her current position. She has seen many changes in the field of education.
   "One thing is certain, change has been inevitable. State mandates pose problems to some school systems. School systems cannot operate independently like they did once when I was a student," Dr. Blevins said.
   How have her experiences growing up -- as a student, teacher, administrator, parent and grandparent -- changed her outlook on education?
   "I always think of the impact any decision by me will have on our students. I know that I will not be able to please everyone all the time. But teachers, parents and students can rest assured that a lot of thought goes into every decision."
   Today, Dr. Blevins is the chief executive officer for more than 300 teachers, principals, education assistants, support staff and administrative personnel in the Elizabethton School System.
   Dr. Blevins said her success in the field of education, thus far, can be attributed to many people who had a positive influence on her life, from childhood to the present.
   "I am most thankful for their guidance and encouragement. I believe a sound education begins at home with supportive parents. I feel fortunate to have been inspired by my parents, teachers and mentors to reach the next higher level," she said.
   Climbing the ladder of success is a continuing process of knowledge and education. It is difficult to achieve one without the other, she added.