Smyrna School District educator Deborah Judy has worked in education or 12 years, and in that time she has moved up the ropes from English teacher to the principal of Sunnyside Elementary School.

Judy, who was most recently the associate principal of John Bassett Moore and Clayton Intermediate schools, is replacing retired principal Kathy Castro. Judy recently took a few minutes to talk with the Sun-Times about her career in education and why she applied for the position.

Q Why did you go into education?

A I worked with adults when I began my career as a social worker. The task of changing the habits and behaviors my clients had for a lifetime seemed as if I was always taking two steps forward and three steps back. School was something I always enjoyed. I thought working with students would allow me to make a difference and be a role model before those destructive habits and behaviors became life-long. I have met some truly amazing students and families in my tenure in Smyrna. I could not have been more right about my choice to work here and in education. Though I do believe it is others whom have made a difference in my life more than I have in theirs.

Q Why did you apply for the Sunnyside Elementary position?

A I applied to be the principal of Sunnyside Elementary School because it is an absolutely wonderful school. Mrs. Castro created a school with a knowledgeable and involved staff, super parental support and extremely successful students. Who wouldn’t want to work there!? I feel blessed to be able to learn from Mrs. Castro, whom has clearly led her great team to numerous awards and accolades. The staff and community have already been so supportive.

Q How does it feel to have been approved for the position?

A I am so grateful for the opportunity to work here in the SSD, in my current schools and now at SSES. It is an honor to work alongside the administration of the district and other schools. I couldn’t be more excited to work with the staff and [associate principal] Mr. Pat Grant to continue the success of SSES.

Q What are you going to miss about working at JBM and CIS?

A Without a doubt, I will miss every single staff member and student I have had the pleasure to work with at JBM and CIS. Elyse Baerga and David Paltrineri have been wonderful mentors to me as a new administrator. I have learned so much from them and my other administrative colleagues. At the end of this school year, I have had to say goodbye to my staff and students and it has been very bittersweet. I have told them all they will always have a friend on the Sunnyside.

Q What do you like about working in education?

A I enjoy the relationships I have with teachers, other administrators, parents/families, students and teachers the most. As I said before, I believe they have all impacted my life more than I have theirs. I learn something new each and every day. In each school is a sense of community and family. I look forward to each day because I know I will have the opportunity to see some of the best people I know at my schools. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Students are not just their scores on assessments. They are stories of home runs, dance recitals, wrestling matches, championship football games, trips they’ve taken with their families and books they’ve read. I get to know my kids and that is what makes working in education so rewarding.

Q What do you like about working in the Smyrna School District?

A The SSD is made up of a supportive group of people whom have embraced my family and become a second family to me. I do not believe another district in this state can boast the sense of pride we have for each other’s accomplishments.