Terri Taylor is finally going to take a break and it has been a long time coming.
The Oakdale Joint Unified Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources will close the door to her office one final time come mid-June as she looks ahead to life as a retired educator. Taylor has spent 28 years with OJUSD, 32 total in education. She began her career as an Instructional Aide at Valley Home School, an experience she noted as one she values just as much as the others which followed.
The Assistant Superintendent is what some might deem a teacher’s administrator. Her teaching career started at Fair Oaks as a sixth grade teacher, which led to Assistant Principal of the campus. She is also the mastermind behind the exceptional staff which started Sierra View Elementary school, with her taking the helm as school principal. Seven short years ago, Taylor transitioned to the District Office into her current role.
“I’ve been working a long time,” Taylor said. “I had responsibilities at a young age.”
Raised by hard workers, she herself began working at 14. A fact she shared was a result of both necessity, as well as drive.
“They really were role models for what it meant to be a hard worker,” Taylor said of her parents.
She also credits former Valley Home School Superintendent Harold Pope with shaping who she became as a professional.
“He was truly a mentor in my life,” Taylor stated, sharing stories of Pope and his work ethic as a person and an educator. “He did everything.”
Taylor added that working as an Instructional Aide at Valley Home School helped prepare her for the type of teacher, leader, as well as person she would become. One of the most notable points in her career was the opening of Oakdale’s newest and fourth elementary school, Sierra View, in 2005. As principal of the school she was responsible for not just building the team which would lead, but learning the ins and outs of the facility as well.
“It was really a lot of work,” she said. “A lot of hours. What we had at Sierra View was really very special. We got to make it be what we wanted it to be. It was kind of a magical time.”
While Taylor thoroughly enjoyed her team as well as students while serving as the principal of an elementary school, she knew there was something more for her to achieve within the district.
“That’s kind of my cycle,” she said. “My nature is I need a new challenge.”
Seven years ago, she and Marc Malone, both former Oakdale Mustangs, reunited as a powerful team as she joined the staff of the District Office. Seven years, which she now sits in awe of recalling how quickly the time has passed and how fulfilling her life’s work has been.
“What we’re here for is what’s happening at the school sites not what’s happening here at the office,” Taylor said of the importance of the District Office roles in conjunction with the schools. She credits Malone’s leadership as a pivotal part of the active role taken by OJUSD administrative team.
“The more information I have about situations, that’s how I can be fair and that’s how I can make an informed decision that’s best for everyone,” she said. “We have an amazing staff.”
With 32 years of education now behind her, Taylor has witnessed a lot of change as well as transition. Classroom teachings and campuses look very different from when she first began in Valley Home.
“Parents need to get their kids off of those devices,” Taylor said of what she sees as one of the largest issues in education, as well as society. “They need to get them back into being civilized young people who can converse, who can have relationships, who can understand if you’re angry about something you don’t go on Facebook and blast the person. You call them up or meet face to face and have a civil conversation with them on what you disagree about. To me it’s very alarming.”
Taylor also shared concern with some parents as educators seem to be more under attack versus looking at the whole picture and considering student responsibility in some cases.
“Not to be misunderstood,” she said, “we have amazing parents in this district, we really do. I just know as a parent when my child would come home with a story I would always ask, so what did you do? Our children are not perfect and they are capable of lying to protect themselves.”
Overall, Taylor has lived a career which she feels she was destined for. A fact which leaves her daunted by the passing of time and emotional by its coming to an end.
“The most rewarding thing is being able to help more people,” she said of her final role as Assistant Superintendent. “I just feel like for some reason that’s why God put me on earth, to be able to help people.”
The relationships and daily interaction is what she anticipates she will miss the most. Her work family and the friendships made. However, her decision was made early on that she would retire at 55 and so it’s time. Taylor stated she wants to leave the position while her passion is still strong and not exhausted.
“It’s definitely the right time,” she said. “When I say our staff is wonderful that means everybody and I’m going to miss that.”
As for herself, her role and how she hopes to be remembered … the question prompted a long pause, followed by emotion filling her eyes.
“I would hope that if they think of me they remember that I cared,” Taylor said of the many lives she’s touched through her 32 years. “I cared about them, each of them. And … that I was fair, but I did … I cared about them.”