District says Fond Farewell to Pioneer Educator

District says Fond Farewell to Pioneer Educator
Posted on 01/05/2016

Joyce McAllister and husband, Michael, little knew what was in store for them when, in 1998, they left their jobs in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and found Springfield, TN. 

Joyce left a comfortable job as a VP of marketing for an insurance company, but said she was not getting the emotional satisfaction from her work that she desired, and wanted to work with children.  She had no idea at the time how completely this desire was going to realized.

In February of 1999, she was hired by then-principal Bill Locke to work as an aide at Springfield Middle School.  She also drove a school bus for a short time, until, as she relates, the district found out that she spoke fluent Spanish.  Then, in her words, “It was on.”

At the time, Joyce remembers there were around 10 Hispanic families in the county, and she was tasked with being a liaison to help them integrate into the school system.  “They did not know anything about the system,” she remembers.  “Families didn’t know how to enroll…the kids were just lost.”

Joyce said that one of the biggest accomplishments she helped with was about 14 years ago and was the task of simply getting all of the district forms and documents translated so that parents could fill them out.  “Initially there was nothing in Spanish for them,” she recalled.  Through her efforts, those parents, and those to follow encountered one less hurdle in the enrollment process for their children.

Over the years, McAllister’s responsibilities grew from the initial contact with less than a dozen families, to impacting around 400 families of the approximately 800 Spanish-speaking families in the county.  As she describes it, those responsibilities grew into more of a ministry than just work.  That holistic approach came to include many things as she remembers, including:

  • Starting an English class at her church (New Chapel UMC) for Spanish parents, with the help of pastor Paul Purdue.
  • Tutoring and mentoring students and families with homework assignments.
  • Helping Hispanic children with health issues receive help thru Shriner's Hospital, St. Jude's and Vanderbilt.
  • Translating for a family with fertility issues.  A little embarrassing, says McAllister, but they now have three beautiful children -   two of which are now in RCS.
  • Seeing some of her “originals” graduate, start their own business's, and buying homes.
  • Seeing some of her “originals’” children start school.  When they go to school, they are told that they are going to see Ms. Mac!
  • Listening as 'non' speakers say the pledge of allegiance during morning school announcements.
  • Hearing a 'praise' song at VBS (in English) from a five year old who didn't know a word of English but who learned every word of the song.  He didn't know what he was saying but he knew every word.
  • Watching a five year old become a Rise student.  He barely spoke English and the test was in English.
  • Being asked and doing presentations within the community about the Hispanic culture.
  • Translating two weddings, and one baptism.

Joyce tendered her resignation to RCS in December of 2015, as she decided to retire, look at new opportunities, spoil four grandchildren, and ultimately move to Costa Rica with her husband for their retirement years.

She will be missed by the many, whose lives she has touched, including colleagues, students and parents.  The work she pioneered has now grown to include six additional school district translators who will be able to carry on the legacy of her achievements. 

Looking back over a full, and fulfilling tenure, Joyce said her most meaningful memories and accomplishments are the lasting impact she made on students and families. 

“For instance,” she said,  “a child that I worked with in Kindergarten at Bransford will come up to me in later years when they’re in high school and say something like, ‘You gave me a purple coat, and I loved it.’  Something that simple makes a difference.”

McAllister has not only made that difference in the Hispanic community, but in the non-Hispanic as well, as she’s helped to draw together the diversity of cultures. Perhaps the comment, made by someone who knows her well, that, “Because of her, Robertson County has become more accepting of Hispanics,” is a fitting testimony and tribute to the calling and commitment that Joyce McAllister fulfilled through her time with Robertson County Schools.

Thank you, Joyce.  And enjoy your well-deserved retirement!

 

 

 

 

 

  • 800 M. S. Couts Blvd, Suite 2, Springfield, TN 37172
  • 615-384-5588
Robertson County Schools