Sherrie Ledford, a longtime Bradley County school teacher and principal, will soon be retiring after spending nearly 40 years in the education field.
Currently the principal of Valley View Elementary School, Ledford will retire at the end of the current semester.
Originally from Chattanooga, she moved to Cleveland in 1975 with her husband of then four years, Larry, who wanted to move back to his hometown.
Her career in education has spanned 39 years, the majority of which were spent teaching in the Bradley County School System. She has been principal of Valley View Elementary for 12 1/2 years. Prior to that, she was a first-grade teacher at Oak Grove Elementary School for 25 years.
“My career has been absolutely fabulous,” Ledford said. “I’ve learned as much from my students as they have from me.”
She started her career in Chattanooga after earning an undergraduate degree from Middle Tennessee State University and earning graduate degrees from Tuscalum College and Lincoln Memorial University.
Though many college students choose to change their majors in the process of earning their degrees, she said she never wavered from the desire to teach. She said she was in part inspired by her great-aunt, who was also a longtime educator.
Her enthusiasm for helping children learn has proven to be contagious over the years. After Ledford taught them in first grade, she said she later learned that 32 of her former first-grade students had grown up to be teachers at well, and about 20 of those have remained in the county.
“I like to think of that as one of my biggest accomplishments,” she said.
She described teaching as being something she loved to do because she enjoyed the moments when she could “see the light bulbs go on” when students learned new things. She described it as being like “magic,” which later inspired Valley View Elementary’s motto.
When she became principal of the school, she learned that the school’s team name was the Valley View Magic. While the team name was inspired by the likes of NBA basketball team, the Orlando Magic, she decided that a different kind of magic should be emphasized. Signs and murals touting “the magic of education” now fill the school.
She said it was amazing to see how young children grew and learned during their time at school. Though she has not been a classroom teacher for the past several years, she said she had gotten to know the students by doing things like reading to the younger children in class and eating lunch in the cafeteria with them on a regular basis.
Valley View has seen a lot of changes over the years, with additions of things like a program that encouraged dads to volunteer with students in the school — not just moms.
She said she was also thankful to Bradley County’s government and school board for building a $2 million addition onto the school. That addition provided the school with a dedicated library. The school was originally built in the 1950s, and the school had been using a normal classroom as a library.
Ledford described her career as having been an amazing one, one that she even got to share with her own three children when they were young enough to still be in school. She said the fact that she enjoyed living and working in Bradley County so much over the years meant that it would be hard to leave. Now a widow, Ledford has decided to move closer to where more of her family members live, to Memphis.
She said she hoped whoever took her place would share her desire to foster students’ loves of learning and emphasize “the magic of education.”
Bradley County Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel later announced at a Bradley County Board of Education session that Corey Limburg had been chosen as Valley View Elementary’s next principal. Limburg is currently a physical education teacher at the school.