Another department that is saying goodbye to one of their own is the P.E. department, as P.E. teacher Stephen Gilliam is retiring at the end of this semester.
Gilliam graduated from the University of North Alabama, where he majored in marketing. At the age of 29, he decided to pursue a different path and began working at Willowbrook.
“I started coaching when I got out of high school and I enjoyed the coaching aspects, so I knew I wanted to be involved with students. I went back and got my certification in teaching and started teaching after that,” he remembers.
He started out his career at Willowbrook, where he worked for 18 years. He then transferred to AT where has been working for the past 12 years.
“My best memories are the people in my department. It’s a great group of people, very professional, have students in mind, they’re student centered, and the other thing is that we have fun,” reminisces Gilliam.
Gilliam recalls the impact that his teachers had on his life, which motivated him to become an educator.
“When I was a student in high school, there were a lot of teachers and coaches that had a big influence on my life, so I wanted to maybe do something like that, to influence kids,” he said.
Throughout his whole career, he did just that, as the P.E. department head Robert Schader confirms. “When he came to AT from Willowbrook, he fit right in with our students, our staff, and our department. He’s been an all around great person to work with,” said Schader.
“He’s just a happy go lucky guy, works hard, and does a great job with the kids. He gets his kids to work hard, especially juniors and seniors.
“Especially seniors, when you get towards the end of the year like now and you’re ready to graduate, he does everything he can to help them pass the class and become prepared for college,” highlights Schader.
Gilliam mentioned that his students and their success have always been important motivations in his life.
“Every day they [students] influence me, there are things that happen that just amaze me. You know, young people, when you give them an opportunity, they can do amazing things, and that’s always fascinating to me,” he explained.
Similarly to other retirees, Gilliam is already looking forward to having so much free time and pursuing hobbies. He shared some of the plans he has already made, as well as some travel locations he plans to visit.
“I’m looking forward to spending time with my wife and best friend, looking forward to doing some traveling, and becoming more involved with my family. We’re probably going to do some traveling to Tennessee and go to other parts of the country that we haven’t seen,” he said.
Gilliam’s hopes to positively impact the lives of students have certainly come true. Students, as well as staff thank him for his time at AT and appreciate his work.