Everyday is a new adventure at Spring Hill Middle School. That’s SHMS Assistant Principal Julie Estes’ motto.
The SHMS assistant principal and school athletic director will retire at the end of this school year following more than 24 years in the role.
Estes’ adventures are about to become a little more personal
Though retirement looms in less than a month – her official last day is June 14 – her office is still filled to capacity with decades-worth of experiences at SHMS. Her degree and a University of Kansas flag hang on her wall, along with student artwork, and personal photos. When school lets out, she’ll be in and out, packing.
In the meantime, staff and students continue to look for her for advisement. On May 20, with less than a week of school left, a staff member stops into her office to fill out referral forms. A sixth grader stops in to find out if he will be allowed to go to recess.
“What did we agree to?” Estes asks him. She allows him to go to recess reminding him that if he misbehaves again, he’ll be right back in the office.
Estes will miss the students most, she says.
“They’re funny, and they’re goofy, and they’re loving.”
It’s the little things she’ll miss. For example, one student, she said stops by everyday to tell Estes about her baby goats, and in between those discussions, she’ll talk with other students about other things like family life and social media.
“With social media, they have so many opportunities to see and send inappropriate correspondence,” Estes said. “It’s things like that where I can give them an outlet – someone to talk to.”
She started her career in Topeka, teaching whatever needed to be taught, including language arts and alternative education. Her second career stop brought her to the Piper School District.
After 32 years in education, she’s hanging up her ruler this year, in part, because she has a sister who was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. Estes’ sister lives with her now in Leawood.
“I do believe God put her in front of me,” Estes said. “She asked me before she was diagnosed to retire and leave the rat race.”
Estes hasn’t been publicly emotional about leaving behind the SHMS adventures, but a surprise all-school assembly to wish her well last week did cause her to tear-up a little bit.
Aaron Todd will replace her as assistant principal at the school. Estes offered limited advice to those who work with middle school-age students.
“Keep the humor and the love,” she said. “If you’ve got that, you’ll do fine.”