ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — When Robertsdale Elementary School opens classes on Wednesday, Aug. 11, there will be a lot of new faces, including several new teachers and a new principal Angie Beard.
“There have been a lot of changes and a lot of new people,” said Beard, who welcomed faculty to the school on Aug. 1. “Everyone has been really great and I’m super excited to be at Robertsdale.”
A native of Gilbertown, a small town of about 250 in Choctaw County, Beard said, she grew up on a farm and her father ran a logging business.
“I grew up around cows, horses and chickens and riding with my dad in a logging truck,” she said.
She went to a small high school with about 300 students in grades 9 through 12, where she was a member of the school’s cheerleading squad.
After high school, she attended the University of West Alabama in Livingston, where she received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in marketing.
“My path being an educator has been a bit different from most,” she said. “My first love was sales and that’s what I started out doing.”
After getting married and having two children, a daughter, Madalyn, and a son, John Dawson, she was working in sales at Linden Lumber Company when she decided to take a step back.
“My children were 2 and 3 at the time and I realized that someone else was raising my children while I was going back and forth between Linden and Calhoun, Georgia,” she said.
She made the decision to go back to school and pursue a master’s degree in early childhood and elementary education, but she was struggling with how she was going to juggle a job, a family and night classes.
But then a miracle happened.
The company she was working for at the time made the decision to outsource their sales and marketing department and began to lay off 150 workers. She was one of them.
“I was called in to my supervisor’s office and told they were letting me go,” she said.
Her response was not what they were expecting.
“I said ‘This is an answer to my prayers,’” she said, explaining her dilemma of going back to school while juggling everything else in her life. “He responded that I was the easiest person he had ever had to fire.”
So in 2004 she returned to West Alabama, receiving her first master’s degree in 2005 and got her first job teaching fourth grade at Choctaw County Elementary from January to the end of the 2005 school year.
From there she taught kindergarten in Demopolis for five years from 2005 to 2010, during which she suddenly found herself a single mom with a child in third and fourth grades.
She returned home, teaching kindergarten at Choctaw Academy in Toxey for two years, but realized her place was in public school.
“I was raised in public school and realized that I wanted to be where there was a more diversified student population,” she said.
So, she took a job with Head Start, working with students from Marengo and Choctaw counties.
In 2013, Beard said, she decided to make the move to Baldwin County because of the advanced academics, opportunity and community.
She started working at Gulf Shores Elementary before moving to J. Larry Newton where she taught third grade. From there went to Silverhill School, where she would eventually become an instructional reading coach.
It was Silverhill School Principal Pamela Moorer who encouraged her to pursue administration.
“She said, ‘I see you as a leader in this school and I think you would do well in a leadership role,’” she said. “It was something I had never considered before.”
So in 2017, she went back to UWA and got another master’s degree in educational leadership, interning at Silverhill Elementary and at Gulf Shores High School.
While in Gulf Shores, she was also working cleaning condos during the summer and helping with the concession stand at local concerts.
For the last three years she has served as an assistant principal at Foley Elementary School before being tapped to become the new principal at Robertsdale Elementary.
“I have loved each of the schools I have been at through the years,” she said. “We have a very supportive central office that goes above and beyond to make sure we have the best resources every year.”
She said her biggest priority at RES is to continue to develop community involvement and school spirit.
“I grew up in a small town where football on Friday night was the only thing around, so school spirit is a very important thing to me,” she said.
She said she has been in close contact with Robertsdale High School Principal Joe Sharp and Athletic Director Kyle Stanford to host spirit days with football players and cheerleaders from the high school.
Students will participate in pep rallies with members of the high school band and plans are being made to host a Mardi Gras parade.
“Our sixth-grade students participating in band should have enough experience by then that they should be able to lead the way,” she said.
Beard said she has also reached out to local churches and has already brought in members of the Loxley Church of God to feed teachers and has been in contact with Bethel Baptist Church to provide lunch one day.
“This is still a small town here and support from our local community is so important to us,” she said. “This past year has been such a challenge and I know we’re facing more challenges ahead, but the hope is that as we move forward, we will be able to have more community involvement.”
Beard said she hopes to be able to bring back a Fall Festival in the coming months and she also plans to utilize social media such as Facebook Live to let the community know what is going on at the school.
“Whether it’s introducing new S.T.E.M. program or students having fun on the playground, I want the community to know that they are part of what we are doing to educate our youth,” she said.