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SECC Principal Ann Worden to retire after 37 years in education

Elisabeth Slay

After 37 years as a teacher, librarian and administrator, Shawnee Early Childhood Center (SECC) Principal Ann Worden is retiring at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

According to Worden, she comes from a family of educators and it was her family members that inspired her to shape and mold young minds.

"My mother was an elementary teacher and a principal and my sister was a teacher, a counselor, a principal and superintendent," Worden said. "Of course (my) grandparents were educators."

While her family inspired her to teach, Worden said she didn't initially commit to the profession and actually ended up pursing other professions before returning to education.

"I taught and then said 'I don't know if I want to do that again.' I went into management and did some other things and then got the teaching bug again and I went back and I loved it,' Worden said. "35 years later I'm still doing it. Totaling 37 years."

The educator explained she received her undergraduate degree in education from Oklahoma State University and then got her Masters in Library Services from Georgia College and State University.

"I became a librarian and as we have moved in different states I've either been a teacher or a librarian because I was a teaching librarian," Worden said.

Worden said she and her husband of 42 years, Randy and their two daughters Stacy and Sandy moved back to Oklahoma after living in various places.

"When we came back to Oklahoma, I just knew it was just time to become an administrator and then I went to (the University of Oklahoma) to get my admin certification," Worden said.

The educator said she taught in Norman and worked at the K20 Center doing professional development for the state.

Eventually, Worden said, she became the principal of SECC and has been for the last seven years of her career.

For Worden, the best and most important aspect of being an educator is working with and helping children learn and grow.

"I think it's certainly all about the children and helping them to become all that they can be (and) meet their potential," Worden said.

While she feels on the whole education is about the students, Worden said as a principal it's important that she build a collaborative and respectful place for her staff.

"In this role as a principal it's more about making connections with the teachers as well and helping support them and creating a school with an environment where all can thrive. The adults and the children," Worden said.

The principal explained while there are rewarding moments that come with being an educator it's not without its hardships.

"One of the biggest concerns now is certainly the behaviors that are going on...They're communicating a need and some of the hard things that are going on in their life," Worden said. "That's a hard thing now."

However, Worden said while it's a challenge, she, the teachers of SECC and Shawnee Public Schools have worked hard to implement things to help the young students at SECC as they continue to develop.

Worden said she has been very fortunate to work at SECC and in the Shawnee district.

"They are very supportive of Early Childhood. The whole state is but especially Shawnee district. They want the very best for these kids because they realize that if we can meet these children's needs then as they grow they're going to continue to do well in education and then later as a citizen," Worden said.

The principal said she will officially retire June 8 and she will miss many aspects of her job.

"(I will miss) the hugs from the kids and seeing the interactions all the time. They've got my heart," Worden said. "I'll always be a teacher...where ever else I go in life."

While she'll miss her students, Worden said she is looking forward to retirement and spending more time with her husband and family.

"I'm looking forward to the next chapter...We want to spend more time with our grandkids...Now that both of us will be retired we'll be able to do that," Worden said. "I'm just looking forward to all kinds of stuff and seeing step by step what it's going to be."