After three decades of educating, Jim Walls, assistant principal for Peebles Elementary and High School, is eager to experience the next chapter in his life.
Walls has been the assistant principal for Peebles Elementary since 2000 and then principal of both schools since 2011. Walls has been a fixture of education in Adams County for the better part of 30 years making stops in Manchester, Aberdeen, North Adams and Peebles, with a brief stay in Xenia in Greene County.
Throughout it all, Walls has spent 12 years as a teacher and 18 as an administrator.
Walls reminisced about how the idea of teaching as a career came to him as a young man – an idea he initially called “laughable.”
“I grew up on a 144 acre farm,” Walls said. “No one in my family had a four year college degree. It was something foreign to my family. My great grandfather, grandfather and father all had worked at Frigidaire and retired from there – that was the expectation for me. I was told, ‘You aren’t college material.’”
At age 20, Walls went to work as a tax lister for the Adams County Auditor’s Office and coached B-League baseball when the principal at Winchester noticed him and gave him advice that led him down his current path.
“He asked me ‘Jim, what are you doing with your life?’ I said what any 20-year-old who has no clue would say. ‘Working and coaching, what else is there?’ He said ‘I have seen quite a few teachers over the years but only a few naturals. You are a natural born teacher. You should consider that for a career.’”
From there the ball began rolling. A superintendent took Walls to Morehead State and had him enrolled, where Walls eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and eventually a master’s of science degree in educational administration from the University of Dayton.
Walls said his journey that led him to Peebles was a long one, but ended up being a great experience.
“Joey Bennington and I had played softball together against each other in our youth,” Walls said. “He was a great friend, a great man and you could never be around him and not feel better about yourself and life. We taught together, worked on masters classes together, drove with each other to UD, and our families hung out together.”
It was in 2000 he got invited by Bennington to apply at Peebles, where he worked and saw both of his sons graduate and continues to see his two stepchildren attend currently.
“[Joey and I] had this dream to be principals together in the same school,” Walls said. “Joey asked me in 2000 to come interview for the Assistant Principal’s job here. I got selected by the site-based team so we got to do that for seven great years. How many people get to help lead a school with their best friend? I was truly blessed for that experience.”
As a principal, Walls rarely heard from others, “Wow. That must be a wonderful job.” More often that not he would get asked “How do you put up with these kids today?” But Walls says he knows what “these kids today” are capable of.
“These kids today do give without expecting anything in return,” Walls said. “Year after year they provide canned goods at Christmas for families in need, families whose children would not have food or presents to unwrap on Christmas Day if not for them. They raise money and awareness through Relay For Life for the ongoing fight against cancer. They annually donate blood during the Red Cross Blood Drive to save the equivalent of 600 lives a year. These kids today’are selfless and caring. So the next time you come across someone who thinks they know about ‘these kids today’ share these truths with them. Or send them my way and we can ‘chat’ about what I know about these kids today.”
While this chapter of his life is ending, Walls plans on never being completely retired, continuing to strive for a purpose in his life.
“I’m not ready to hang up working with kids just yet,” Walls said. “We sold our house last year and moved to Batavia this past November in anticipation of the next chapter of our lives. I never see myself completely retired. Without a goal there is no purpose and without a purpose life usually doesn’t last very long. I want to be totally used up when I come to the end of my life.”