Terrell ISD Superintendent Dr. Georgeanne Warnock

TERRELL, Texas — Just before Terrell Independent School District Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Georgeanne Warnock took her new position in January of 2020 she sat down with inForney.com for an exclusive interview.

At that time there was no sign of a pending pandemic, and she couldn’t have foreshadowed the herculean challenges her district and school children across the country would face in the coming months.

“You have to lead with love. If you don’t lead with love, you won’t be willing to make the sacrifices you need to make for the people that are in your care,” Warnock told inForney.com at the time.

This week the superintendent put those words into action by going back to the classroom – a place she was needed most.

Like many school districts across the area, post-pandemic school operations in Terrell ISD have been challenging as of late.

“Like most districts, we are having a hard time with staffing shortages and finding enough substitutes to meet the needs of our students,” Warnock says.

Subsequently, when a seventh-grade science class needed a substitute this week, Warnock stepped in to help where she was needed most.

“Our central office staff have been helping to fill substitute vacancies last year and this year. Even though I am on the list to help, I have not been asked or assigned because the assumption is that I am too busy to substitute,” Warnock said.

“After hearing from teachers and principals about some of the unique challenges of this year, I decided that instead of waiting for my turn to be assigned or asked, I was just going to let the campus know that I would be there and to put me in a classroom. There's no better way to truly understand than to walk in someone else's shoes.”

It had been 16 years since Warnock had commanded a classroom, before being promoted through the ranks of administration, but she was excited about the challenge.

Warnock says she was most surprised by the reaction of students, teachers, colleagues, and friends after she shared her experience on social media.

“I felt thoughtful, inspired, compelled to keep improving situations for teachers, staff, and students. I was surprised by the reaction from my friends on social media when I shared my thoughts from the day,” Warnock says.

Below is the post Warnock shared on social media.

1. When I taught, we were on a 90 minute block schedule. 45 minutes is FAST…with much to accomplish.

2. Thank goodness my teacher bladder had some muscle memory…getting kids out the door and getting to the hall to welcome in the next group (and not having a break until lunch) meant no RR break.

3. We need to revisit the state standards. I am not sure that many of us know what xylem & phloem are…and I bet we are still OK. After today, I can confidently explain these structures (I hope the kids can tomorrow).

4. There were kids in 7th grade who have returned to school after being in an at-home learning environment since 5th grade. They are struggling with structure and connection with peers after being at home.

5. Some kids need more and better sleep at night.

6. Kids say funny things. In the first five minutes after I walked in (wearing a black dress, jacket, & sandals (toe injury) and introduced myself as Dr. Warnock - kids asked, “are you rich? Are you famous? Are you like a psychiatrist or like a heart doctor? What happened to your toe? Where’s our teacher? Are you new here?”

7. Teachers are amazing—several came to check on me to make sure I knew the lunch procedure (I didn’t) and to let me know if I needed anything to call.

8. I forgot to turn in attendance. The office called to sweetly remind me.

9. Kids need love, even when they ask for it in unlovable ways. I had to use a lot of tricks in my teacher bag today with a couple of kiddos…one little guy who tried really hard to escape any work gave me some good practice. Later during a passing period, I got a fist bump and a “are you coming back tomorrow?” from same kiddo.

10. This is a really hard year for teachers and school staff. I am thinking a lot on how we do more to support them. They are heroes and we need to be grateful for what they do everyday especially when they don’t always receive the gratitude they deserve.

Warnock says this experience has sparked a change in her own schedule moving forward.

“I will continue this practice after the pandemic, and our administrative team will continue, I would encourage all to do it,” Warnock says.

“I have time blocked each week to visit classrooms and campuses, I will change this dedicated time to subbing in classrooms as this is our greatest need right now,” she says.

“I can learn a lot by observing classes, but I learned a lot more from stepping into the teacher's shoes. I’ll be back in the classroom next week, and I am really looking forward to it.”