Community champions: Myra Garrett
Continuing long history with city school system
By Calvin Cooley
Photos by Rachel Howard and Contributed
It’s hard to imagine that, in a building with more than 1,000 students and nearly 100 faculty and staff members, one person is responsible for the smooth day–to–day operations of Hartselle High School.
At 1000 Bethel Road NE, Myra Garrett is that person.
Now in her 25th year as a full-time employee with Hartselle City Schools, Garrett serves as administrative assistant at the high school.
“Mrs. Garrett is a wealth of knowledge,” Hartselle High principal Brad Cooper said. “Because she has so much knowledge of the school and the community, she is always a sounding board for me before making decisions. She understands how to do her job and does it well. She understands the processes that must be in place to ensure the day–to–day operations of the school flow smoothly. She is invaluable to me as an administrator.”
Garrett has spent practically her entire life in the City of Hartselle. “I moved to Hartselle at age 3, and I’ve been here pretty much since then,” she said.
Her husband’s construction company took them to places like Jackson, Tennessee; Fort Worth, Texas; and Trenton, New Jersey, over the years. Hartselle, though, was always home.
“We had moved away for an entire year one time,” she said. “It was basically kindergarten for one of my children, and after that, I decided to come home. I wanted my kids to go through the Hartselle City Schools system. It’s just a great place to raise a family and to see your grandchildren grow up.”
Both of her children, and two of her grandchildren, have attended Hartselle City Schools.
After working as a substitute teacher for seven years, Garrett was hired into the system full time in 1995. Her career began in the health room in the basement of the old F.E. Burleson school.
“When I applied for that job, I wasn’t sure I would be qualified,” she said. “I was just a pharmacy tech, and they had some other people applying for the job. As it turns out I did get hired, and it’s worked out pretty well since then.”
Garrett eventually transitioned into the role of kindergarten aide before being approached to fill a spot she wasn’t sure she was suited for.
“We had a teacher at the high school who had a son with autism,” she said. “Jim Grammer wanted to put me in a position where I would work closely with him. I told him he was making a mistake. I just didn’t think I could do it.”
Garrett ended up working with the student from first grade through his graduation from Hartselle High. Afterward, she transitioned into the administrative role she currently holds at the high school.
“That opportunity changed everything,” Garrett said. “Building that relationship was so amazing for me. When you love someone’s child like that, it makes you part of the family. If my boss hadn’t thought I could do that job, I never would have met this amazing child, and I don’t know if I’d be here right now.”
Cooper said that ability to build relationships is part of what makes Garrett such a special employee.
“Mrs. Garrett has spent years building and gaining the trust of everyone around her,” he said. “Everything in life revolves around relationships. Whether it is parents, community members, teachers, staff or students, Mrs. Garrett excels in gaining trust and building relationships. The faculty, parents and students trust her, and that makes a tremendous difference in our school.”
Garrett has experienced a lot during her 33 years working within the system.
“It’s hard to say I have one favorite memory because when I think about it, so many things come to mind,” she said. “When you’re working with elementary school kids, you get to see and hear so many things. What pops into their minds is exactly what comes out of their mouths. They’re just so young … and you see them holding hands and walking toward you, and all they need is a little love. By the time the elementary year ends, you have such a changed little person.”
She also remembers when the high school moved into the new building on Bethel Road.
“We went for half days at the old school and moved stuff in the afternoon,” she said. “Prom ended up being on the second day of that move, so looking back, I can’t believe that we did that.”
Garrett said she reflects every day on her life and career in Hartselle.
“I live maybe three minutes from the school, and each day I have to ask myself how I got so lucky to work in this great facility,” she said. “I have such great Christian co-workers, and everyone shows up excited to do their work. I’m blessed.”
Garrett said she doesn’t know how long she’ll stay in the school system, but she knows she’s going to enjoy every moment she is there. “My daughter wanted me to stay until my grandson (Hartselle football standout Jackson Boyer) graduates,” she said. “Now that his graduation is here, I have people asking me what I’m going to do.”
When Garrett does decide to step away from the school system, she will be greatly missed.
“She is great for advice, both professionally and personally,” Cooper said. “She has helped me determine what gifts to get for my wife and children for Christmas, in addition to giving me advice on how to handle controversial situations at school. We often joke about how she treats me like I am her own child, and I wouldn’t take anything for that.
“I certainly love and appreciate her more than she will ever know.”