As I get ready to retire, and the Bossier Press Tribune asked if I would reflect on my 42+ years with Bossier Schools, it dawned on me that tenure actually expanded over five and a half decades. The journey began in January of 1962 when my family moved to Bossier City, the result of my father changing occupations, and I enrolled as a student at Waller Elementary School. Little did I know at that time I was becoming part of the Bossier Parish School family and the abundance of blessings God had in store for me from the moment I walked through those doors.
There is a song my grandkids sing by one of their teenage groups, One Direction, called “The Story of My Life.” Even though the Bossier Parish School family has been an integral part of my life for over fifty years, instead of reflecting on the ‘Story of My Life,’ I prefer to share and reflect more so along the lines of another song we old timers may recall – “Showers of Blessings” – reflecting on the blessings I have received as a result of my journey with the Bossier Parish School System.
Through this unique journey, God has destined that my life’s pathway would cross and intersect with so many, reaping overwhelming blessings that would forge the core of my growth as an educator. I believe true success is not determined necessarily by the accomplishments an individual has obtained throughout his or her life, but by the magnitude of blessings one has received from others along that journey.
As a student, the blessing to have dedicated teachers, administrators, and school support employees that understood a key ingredient in the child’s growth and ultimate success is the relationship one develops with the child – Throughout my time as a student in the Bossier Parish School family, I encountered countless teachers, administrators, bus drivers, secretaries, custodians, and cafeteria workers that realized the importance of developing positive relationships with students. They definitely worked with the highest expectation of effectively fulfilling their job responsibilities and being held accountable, yet never lost sight that until you develop a relationship with a child, you will not witness the full growth and potential of the child to succeed. I am blessed that throughout the years, and to this day, I had exemplary teachers and administrators that continued to mentor me as a result of established relationships. I am also blessed that this a cornerstone of the legacy that lives on in our schools today.
As a new teacher, the blessing to have wonderful colleagues (teachers, administrators, and school support employees) that were willing to reach out and serve in the capacity of a mentor, helping to develop and define my success – As a young, wet-behind-the-ears teacher entering into the Bossier Parish School family, I came on board with immeasurable excitement, an attitude to conquer the world of teaching, and a drive to make a difference. As life shows us, it was just a matter time before the lack of experience, not fully mastering the learning curve and the reality of challenges, disappointments and mistakes made entered into the picture. I was blessed to have experienced, dedicated teaching colleagues and exemplary school leaders who modeled effective teaching and leadership, taking the time and effort to provide the guidance and direction and consistently providing the needed support and encouragement to ensure my success. I am blessed that this desire to reach out and be a mentor, encourager and support to one’s colleague and school family continues to flourish throughout this school system.
As a school principal, the blessing to have outstanding teachers, support personnel, students and parents that were not only willing to share in the development of the vision for the school, but driven to constantly strive for excellence and continuous improvement – In my tenure as a school principal, I was blessed at each school to have a school family (teachers, support personnel, students, parents and stakeholders) that took the initiative to be involved in developing the vision for our school and was willing to put forth the individual effort and dedicated hard work to ensure successful accomplishment of our goals. To ensure excellence and continuous improvement, a school must remain progressive, constantly remaining on the cutting edge, investigating and implementing strategies and initiatives that challenge staff and students to step out of their comfort zone, exploring and conquering new horizons. That is not possible unless your team of stakeholders adheres to the same level of expectations, working collaboratively to obtain the goals, taking a shared approach to address the challenges and celebrating in the successes. I was blessed to have had the experience to work with such school families as Principal at Greenacres Middle School and Airline High School.
As an Assistant Superintendent, the blessing to mentor an outstanding group of educational leaders at the helm of each school who, regardless of the challenges faced, remained focused on continuous student growth and preparing our students to be responsible and productive citizens – School leaders have a most difficult job trying to balance the magnitude of the daily responsibilities of the school — juggling the dictates of the district and state, finding resolution to unsolicited conflicts, addressing the issues and concerns that arise, and meeting the needs of the staff and students. In my educational journey, I was able to experience many challenges along my pathway as a teacher and principal that provided opportunities to better prepare me to be able to serve as a mentor to those who moved into school leadership capacity. I was blessed to be able to serve in the capacity of mentor and to collaborate daily with outstanding school leaders.
As Superintendent, the blessing to work with a board, community partners and stakeholders that consistently invest in our students and our future – Maintaining an exemplary school system that remains progressive and consistently provides enhanced opportunities for its students to excel requires the support and investment of the entire community. I was blessed to work with a board whose focus remains student-centered and a community that is willing to partner and invest its resources to ensure this collaborative effort is sustained.
As Superintendent, the blessing to experience leading the Best of the BEST and to be able to participate, influence and celebrate in the successes accomplished by the Bossier Parish School Family — God has provided me the opportunity to “Grow with” the Bossier Parish School Family, both as a student and an educator, providing me along the journey many opportunities that assisted in both my personal and professional development. God has provided me the opportunity to “ Explore with” the Bossier Parish School Family, both as a student and an educator, providing me experiences that challenged me to get out of my comfort zone, to think ‘outside of the box,’ and continuously seek ways to expand my horizons. God has provided me the opportunity to “Invest in” the Bossier Parish School Family, allowing me to achieve to my utmost potential as a successful student; providing me the opportunity to make an impact as a successful teacher; providing me the opportunity to mentor, encourage, support and influence those I was given the task to lead.
John Maxwell, dynamic motivational speaker and internationally-known pastor, said that “his favorite definition of leadership is a simple, straightforward, one-word description that places leadership within everyone’s reach – Leadership is Influence. All of us can exercise a certain degree of influence on someone, at some point, in some place. Leadership isn’t about titles, positions, or flow charts – It’s about one life influencing another.”
Thank you Bossier Parish School Family for the influences you have been on me throughout this unique journey.
D.C. Machen, Jr.