By Beth Lawrence
Wanda Moore spent 29 years showering love and guidance on the children of Scotts Creek Elementary School. She is retiring, but her heart is still open to kids.
“I loved working in the school system, period, and interacting with the students and faculty,” Moore said. “But I just felt that my time was (here).”
Moore, a Jackson County native, began her career as a kindergarten teacher assistant. After five years as a TA, she decided to become a teacher and later a social worker.
She took night classes at Mars Hill University’s satellite campus in Canton. When the Haywood Campus closed, Moore made the hour-plus drive to Mars Hill three to four nights a week all while raising her family and working. Balancing work school and family, it took her an extra year and a half to complete her degree.
She served as Scotts Creek’s social worker for three years.
Beyond the office duties required for social work, the change was not a big one for Moore.
“I’ve always been interactive with students and parents even as a teacher assistant,” Moore said. “So I just continued to do what I did and just reached out a little further into the community.”
When Moore became a social worker her compassion for the children grew deeper, co-worker Dorothie Willson said.
As a social worker, Moore coordinated the feeding program with MANNA foodbank ensuring children had nutritious meals on weekends and holidays, followed up with students with excessive absences, held guidance classes teaching kindergarten students social skills and seasonal activities, listened to students and parents vent frustrations, and coordinated with social services when required.
“Moving into my own office, I still was available to whoever needed my assistance,” she said. “I had an open door at my office to both (students and faculty).”
Moore will remember fondly the one on one time with students who were upset and mothering students who were away from parents during school hours.
Students remembered that when they moved on because middle schoolers often stop by to talk, she said.
Moore recalls a student who came to vent about her parents’ rules.
“I shared with her some things about my mom and how I taught my children,” Moore said. “And she said, ‘Oh! You sound just like my dad.’ And I said, ‘You may not realize it right now, but as you get older, this conversation will come back to you, and you’ll realize, that’s what Mrs. Moore and my dad were trying to tell me.’”
Moore will miss being a social worker, but most of all she will miss the people, the most enjoyable part of her experiences.
“I had close connections with the faculty and with students. I developed some very good friendships over the years there,” she said.
Her co-workers feel the same way. They describe Moore as gentle, kind and a good person. Willson and Kathy McFadden say Moore’s absence at Scotts Creek will be felt.
Moore was Willson’s teacher assistant for six years.
“Working with her was an absolute joy,” Willson said. “She was amazing with kids.”
When Moore and Willson encountered a child with behavioral issues the two worked to get to the root of the problem and help the child adjust.
“She has this kind spirit about her, but then as one of the kids said, ‘Mrs. Moore, don’t play,’ Willson said. “That meant, she meant business.”
She recalls having a student whose family was in need. The two quietly slipped clothes and food into the child’s backpack to help in an unobtrusive way.
“We saw that some of these kids needed more than an education,” Willson said. “They just needed a little bit more.”
McFadden and Moore worked together for 11 years.
“As an educator, she was fantastic,” McFadden said. “She was always willing to do whatever it took to further their education. The kids that know her are definitely going to miss her. She’s always, happy, smiling, willing to help.”
Moore might volunteer at the school in some capacity post-pandemic. For now, she will enjoy life with her children and grandchildren.
But if a former student approaches her in the supermarket, she will still make time.