From Corporate World to High School Leadership
“If you told me 15 years ago that I’d be a high school teacher today, I’d have said, ‘You don’t know me at all.’”
Tammy Roberts built a long and successful career as a project manager at a Fortune 500 company. It involved running large projects and working alongside a skilled and passionate team to bring new technology products to market. It was very satisfying work.
Yet as the technology market began to change, her company, like so many others, restructured. When they offered Tammy a separation package, she knew this was her chance to step away from technology and try something new.
But what now? She was only in her mid-forties and not ready to retire. She was, however, free to pursue new interests. This time, she wanted to give back in some way to her community.
FROM BOARDROOM TO CLASSROOM
A friend suggested that she pick up a job in the guidance department at local West Nassau High School in Florida. The job was straightforward — helping out where needed, answering phones, and taking messages — but it would allow her to give back to her community. Tammy shared her passion with the principal who, with a little prodding, offered her the job.
She worked happily in the guidance department for three years, until one day when the principal casually announced, “Oh, by the way, you’ll be teaching next year.”
Bold, maybe, but he knew Tammy would be up to the challenge.
She earned her district certification and now teaches Customer Assistance Technology. Nine years later, she can’t imagine doing anything else.
“I’m 57-years-old, and I have never had a job in my life that I have enjoyed more than working with these students,” said Tammy. “When you make a good move here, you can feel it, because you’re making a difference in a child’s life.”
So when local Chick-fil-A Operator Chuck Campbell approached her about helping run a new leadership program at the high school — Chick-fil-A Leader Academy — she jumped at the chance.
From the beginning, Tammy knew the program had the potential to touch lives. Then, during the second Leader Lab on Servant Leadership, a video played about a young boy who experienced the continued kindness and generosity of a local restaurant owner. Years later, when the restaurant owner fell desperately ill, that same boy, now a doctor, treated him and took care of his hospital bill.
During this video, one of Tammy’s students, Nolan McIntosh, stood up in front of the group with tears in his eyes and said, “Ms. Roberts, this really happens. It happened to my grandfather when he got sick and the community stepped in to help pay his hospital bills.” Emboldened, he went on: “You guys, WE can do this. WE can make a difference.”
From there, they hit the gas and haven’t let up.
For their Do Good December Service Project, Tammy challenged students to think big. And they came through, partnering with the Chamber of Commerce’s huge annual craft fair to accomplish a dual goal of creating an experience for children in the community and raising money for a holiday party at a local daycare.
Students have even gone off script, partnering with other school clubs on a variety of community projects. They volunteered at a weeklong D.A.R.E. event and at CSX’s Operation Lifesaver event, which is aimed at safety around railroad tracks. They were also the first high school in the state to take on the now nationwide “X the TXT” initiative.
IMPACT THROUGH ACTION
Tammy’s background as a team leader and project manager has made her uniquely equipped to guide her students — to help them manage their big ideas with confidence. And while she recognizes her influence, she is also aware of the impact her role as a Chick-fil-A Leader Academy Facilitator has made on her own life.
“The program has not only made a difference in my students’ lives, it has made a difference in my life,” said Tammy.
It is a transformation Tammy realizes in her everyday life, in even the smallest ways.
On a trip to Cracker Barrel over the holidays, Tammy and her husband struck up a conversation with the waitress when she confessed that she had never in her life received a holiday card. Moved by her story, Tammy went to the gift shop, picked up a greeting card, penciled in a personal note, and gave it to the waitress, who was moved to tears by the gesture.
“Before Chick-fil-A Leader Academy, I would never have done that,” Tammy confessed. “It would have been yet another sad story. Instead, it moved me to act and to do something for this young lady that would make a difference in her day.”
“I wish every high school in America could have this program.”