Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times
On the horizon of retirement, Highland Christian Academy Principal Jackie Noble seems irreplaceable. Unlike any other school principal, Noble does not just lead her school, she helped found and build it. The school, over time, has become so much more than just her job. It has become an entity, like a child, which she nurtured and cared for as it grew and progressed.
“This is my heart,” said Noble.
It all started in 1999 when the pastor of Southland Church, Lee Barnes, announced that the church intended to start a Christian school. During a meeting with the Lowndes County school system, Noble learned about the job that immediately sparked her interest.
At the time, Noble was the academic dean for Georgia Military College.
“I was at GMC for several years,” said Noble.
Noble met with the board of Southland Church and expressed her interest in the job.
“They graciously hired me,” Noble said.
Noble was a prime candidate. She had 12 years of educational experience that aside from her time at GMC included jobs at Valdosta State College building programs for Moody Air Force Base, a bachelor’s in vocational education and a master's in educational leadership.
Education is “something that’s always been in my heart,” said Noble. “I had some great teachers when I was younger that really motivated me in that direction.”
In 1999, Noble immediately started the foundation work to open Highland Christian.
“There was a lot of background research to be done,” she said.
Noble helped establish the school with the state and as a non-profit.
“We opened in August of 2000 and had 46 students,” said Noble.
Highland Christian started with grades kindergarten through fourth and had only four teachers.
“We added one grade every year until we completed the 12th grade,” said Noble.
After a few years, the school was accredited with Georgia Accrediting Commission. Now, Noble has helped grow the school to about 170 students and 20 teachers and staff members.
“The biggest asset that any school has is the quality of their teachers,” said Noble. “The best thing that I did was get some great teachers.”
Incredibly humble, Noble is quick to note the work of those around her. It is her humility that has made her an exceptional leader and outstanding Christian. Just as in Philippians 2:3, Noble does nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, considers others better than herself.
When asked about how she helped grow the school over the years, Noble noted the school’s mission statement that strives to get students involved in the community and bragged on teacher Connie Wells who built a program for the school that allows students to do internships with various leaders and businesses in the community.
“The internship program has been great,” said Noble.
It was apparent that Noble’s work with Highland Christian during the past decade was so much more than just providing exceptional educational opportunities.
“We want to get (students) involved in changing the world,” said Noble. “The students are accomplishing that.”
With a heavy heart and a complete confidence in her staff, teachers and God, Noble plans to soon retire.
“I began to really pray about it last summer,” said Noble.
Noble just reached 65 years of age and has ambitions of traveling with her husband of more than 40 years, David.
“I was supposed to retire at the end of the year,” said Noble.
The search for a new principal continues and it is something that Noble treads carefully with because the school needs someone who can build upon her work.
“We are looking for someone that can take the school to the next level,” said Noble.
While the search for Noble’s replacement continues, she has found peace with leaving all of her children.
“I really am comfortable with that because we have such great teachers, faculty and staff,” said Noble. “I really do have trust that God and this faculty are taking it to the next level.”
Noble thinks of Highland Christian as a family rather than a school; she plans to remain in constant contact and stay involved.
“It’s been a real life-long dream fulfilled to be able to work in a place where you can see the lives of children change,” said Noble. “A lot of principals have not been able to see that whole picture fulfilled.”