Legacy of making a difference
F.E.B principal retires after 40–year career in education
The daughter of two former school teachers, Deborah Queen has retired as principal of Burleson Elementary after a 40–year career in education. After 22 years at Burleson, Queen retired alongside three of her coworkers and was celebrated along with them with a drive-by parade June 28.
Queen said working in education was something that she didn’t initially plan to pursue, but it felt like a natural fit with her family background.
“I guess it was just the history of it. I started out wanting to do social work, and then when I got to college, I realized I wanted to make a difference and that I wanted to be a teacher,” Queen said.
Prior to being named principal of Burleson, Queen taught music at a variety of levels. Throughout her career she has taught at Hartselle High, Lawrence County and Decatur City, and she was an adjunct faculty member at Calhoun Community College, Northwest–Shoals Community College and Athens State University.
Although teaching at all levels was enjoyable, Queen said she especially enjoyed introducing elementary–aged students to the music world.
“I loved every program and loved all the ages,” she said. “I experienced music on a college level and then the secondary and then the elementary. I think I enjoyed the elementary because you could teach the kids so much. I think that’s what led me back to elementary.”
Looking back over the course of her career, Queen said she has been able to celebrate many milestones with her peers.
“In 2014 we got the Green Ribbon School with the Alabama and U.S. Department of Education. That was a culmination of what we did in the outdoor classroom and even in music and science at the time,” she said. “We received our STEM certification this year, and that was great. I think that was a great way to end.
“We were a CLAS Banner school back in 2015, and then we were a Bicentennial school, and we had great fun and success with that,” she added. “Then we got one of the $1M schools with the third–grade reading initiative.
“To me, it all came together because we educate the whole child. I think each of those bring together different parts of what we even have in our Hartselle City Schools strategic plan. I think all of those tied in together in what we tried to accomplish.”
With retirement ahead of her, Queen said she plans to continue doing what she loves best – serving. A pastor’s wife, she said she is excited to be able to attend more visits with her husband. She said she is also looking forward to working in her garden and being able to travel with her brother, who also retired this year, and his wife.
Queen said the main goal for her career has been approaching each child as an individual and accommodating what works best for each.
“I think it’s a commitment to each and every child, to never give up on a child and to get to know the child no matter what you’re teaching,” she said. “I think that by knowing the child and the child trusting you, you can make a difference in their life and the life of their family.”