Valdosta Daily Times


October 21, 2012

Women in charge . . . and they mean business.


VALDOSTA — Suzanna Tanner

As principal of Westside Elementary School in Lowndes County, Tanner's secret is simple.

"Every female administrator has a pair of flats hidden under their desk," said Tanner as she laughed.

As a principal, Tanner wears many hats. Aside from being in charge of 55 employees and 875 children, Tanner also fixes doors by finding that little rubber piece that goes at the bottom of the stopper, gives permission to a group of third grade boys who want to leave the lunch table to get bananas, and amongst that, still has to find time to attend meetings with superintendent Wes Taylor at the central office.

To put it simply, Tanner rarely finds time to sit in her office and "administrate". She's an all- hands- on- deck sort of administrator and has been for her 12 years in administration and 22 total years in education.

At Hahira Elementary School, Tanner was a teacher for ten years and served as vice principal for three years before coming off maternity leave and returning as principal where she stayed for eight years.

"I came off maternity leave as a new principal and it was really hard," said Tanner.

It was that experience that helped Tanner learn the value of balance.

"I learned that you can't be everything to everyone all the time," said Tanner.

As a teacher before having a baby, Tanner used to work late and take work home with her. Now as a working mother, she has learned when to go home and be home.

"I had to use my time differently," said Tanner.

Now daughter Victoria is 8, and Tanner has executed a near perfect balancing act that incorporates her other secret . . . multi-tasking.

"Women are usually really good at multi-tasking," said Tanner.

Tanner is of several female administrators in the area. Especially throughout the Lowndes County and Valdosta City School systems, it has become quite the norm.

"Years ago, you saw the majority of administrators were male," said Tanner.

That is simply not the case anymore.

"Now you see a lot more people who are coming up from the classroom," said Tanner.

Which is smart. When you think about it, who better to be in charge of an entire school of students and teachers than a previous teacher? This is something the Lowndes School system has recognized and embraced with a program called Aspiring Leaders.

Aspiring Leaders identifies teachers who show leadership qualities and helps train them for those sort of roles.

As a female administrator, Tanner is a role model not only for her daughter, but for other young teachers coming up in the system. No longer are women in education confined to the classroom and Lowndes County more than offers opportunity to those who wish to spread their wings.

While being an administrator certainly has its advantages, it's not just a title, according to Tanner, it comes with real responsibility that takes real work and real dedication.

"I learned that everyone is watching me," said Tanner.

Tanner's philosophy: Don’t ask others to do what you aren't willing to do yourself.

"I'm not too good to do anything." said Tanner. "I try to do the best that I can and be honest and walk the walk, not just talk the talk."

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