After the tumolt of the bittersweet farewell subsided Friday morning, after the hundreds of students, teachers and parents had filed away from the Woodland Heights Elementary School cafeteria, all Bob Turner could manage was a simple shrug.
The retiring principal thought for several seconds on how to answer when asked his reaction to the emotional hourlong sendoff he’d just received.
“It’s trying emotionally,” Turner said. “It’s an emotional time. It’s why I’m kind of speechless.” Turner said it’s been humbling to realize from the gifts, cards and e-mails he’s received since news spread of his retirment how much folks think of him.
Turner, 54, thought most of the good-byes had been said Thursday afternoon, when Turner kept with his weekly custom of dispensing snacks to children in the cafeteria and found himself mobbed.
Friday morning, Turner knew something involving him was planned in the cafeteria. He didn’t know what.
School counselor Kimber Bennett stepped briefly into Turner’s office. “You’re up,” she told him, signalling it was time for him to report to the cafeteria.
For the better part of an hour, Turner sat or stood on the stage as students filed past him, giving him small gifts and cards, and receiving hugs and quiet words of encouragement from the man who had led the school since 2002.
Tearful teachers surrounded him and hugged him.
“They love him,” Bennett said when asked if she could explain the outpouring. “We’ve been together eight years. It’s been awesome. He’s shown great leadership. He’s proven himself, beyond a shadow of a doubt, as a solid administrator.”
Bennett and others named some of Turner’s characteristics, such as knowing every student’s name and coming up with nicknames for the students. “He knows his curriculum, he knows his teachers,” Bennett said.
“He knows that we know what to do and he inspires us to excellence.”
There was “a lot of love, a lot of sadness” on display, Bennett said.
Serena Reigle, 42, who formerly worked as an aide at the school, said she’s attending Tarleton State University to become a teacher thanks to encouragement from Turner and the rest of the staff.
“We just think he’s one of the most amazing principals, for sure, that I’ve ever met,” Reigle said. “I think it’s hearbreaking. These kids are going to be lost without him.”
Turner said his mid-school-year retirement was prompted by several factors including being ill for several weeks, possibly from severe allergies. He also said he had trouble rebounding from a tumultous spring in which teacher Margie Michael died, a staff member was diagnosed with breast cancer and another lost her husband.