Tibbals’ Principal Reflects at Time of Retirement
Melinda Sarles, Principal of Tibbals Elementary from 2005 – 2018, said, “I remember when the building was being built. I had goose-bumps sitting in the parking lot with my hard hat feeling so humbled that someone believed in me enough to put me in charge.” She believed (and believes) that all students deserve a chance for success, the opportunity to be great and it was her goal to create that environment. As a group she believes that is what they have accomplished at Tibbals. She said, “It’s a big ‘we’, everyone was involved.”
As the years rolled along, and the community became more diverse, she added the goal to make everyone in the community feel welcome. She desired that the influence of the outside world be left at the door and when inside the doors, people were just people. There are 44 languages spoken at Tibbals. She received feedback from people of many different cultures stating that they felt welcome.
An additional goal was to make every teacher believe that they are powerful and they can make a difference in someone’s life. She finds a sense of pride reflecting on her 13 years at Tibbals in that she was able to empower others to be the best they can be. “I gave dignity and respect and truly listened to people.” She said she spent the majority of her time communicating. She would listen to people, gather data and make informed decisions. When she says ‘people’ she means teachers, staff, parents and students. She said, “People are put here for a reason, to make a path for someone else. I feel like I have done that by making people know they can do it. They need to know that someone believes in them.”
Being chased around the playground by a skunk is her funniest memory along with the look of herself and staff every time they were soaked with rain during drive-through. She said the things the kids said, especially the kindergarteners, made her laugh.
The most tension filled moments involved sickness and death. When a staff member’s husband died she stood in the hallway when she knew that person would return to school and waited to hug her silently. She said when a student passed away; she didn’t know how to be in charge when there were so many grieving people. She said, “I had to be the one who didn’t fall apart.”
She said if there was one thing she wished she could change about her time at Tibbals it would be that they had room for everyone who had wanted to enroll there. She adds, “I loved every second of every day.”
Tibbals has grown from 500 students in 2005 to 694 students in 2018. Staff has increased from approximately 25 teachers in 2005 to 36 in 2018. A new wing, with six classrooms, will open in December.
Regarding what she will miss upon retirement, Sarles said, “I will miss the people…laughing and crying with them. The funny things the kids say. Loving on people. A sense of accomplishment.” She added, without prompting, “I won’t miss when the world changes and we have to change our procedures to accommodate the world, and I won’t miss deadlines.”
She said she knew this was the right time to retire because she had always said when her youngest daughter graduated it would be the right time. She said additional reasons this is the right time is that Tibbals is getting a facelift and the group that started kindergarten in 2005 graduated this year. She plans on spending her retirement gardening and cooking. She looks forward to trying new recipes. She said, “I will have the time to pack a bag and go anywhere.” She looks forward to getting her daughter settled into college. She said, “I’ll miss the people greatly, but I’m not going anywhere, I’m just going down the street.”
Sarles was an educator for 33 years.