NEWARK – A local educator will retire this month after more than four decades of working to meet the needs of local students.
Eloise Henry-Gordy, student services supervisor for Worcester County Public Schools, will officially end her 43-year career in education June 30.
“There are two things people tell you about retirement,” Henry-Gordy said. “You know when it’s time and don’t put it off. Once I submitted my letter I had a peace about it. I knew I’d made the right decision.”
Henry-Gordy, who spent her childhood in Richmond, grew up surrounded by teachers. Her mother worked in head start, the woman next door was an assistant principal and there were several classroom teachers on the street.
“I guess you could say it’s in the blood,” she said. “I always enjoyed working with children.”
She started her career as an elementary school teacher in Virginia. After three years there, she moved on to Wicomico County, where she worked for 11 years, and has spent the past 29 years working for Worcester County Public Schools. Henry-Gordy has taught second, third and fifth grade and then spent a year as a school counselor before being appointed assistant principal in 1994 and then principal at Snow Hill Elementary School in 1997.
“I truly loved being principal at Snow Hill Elementary School,” she said. “We were a family. We worked together, the teachers, parents and administrators.”
Henry-Gordy knew every student by name and still recalls a coworker laughing as they overheard her asking — by name — how a little boy’s dog was doing. She fondly recalls taking the entire school to Disney on Ice at the Wicomico Civic Center as a reward for students’ hard work.
“The children were so mesmerized,” she said. “They wrote thank-you notes afterward.”
She said that while leading an entire school was difficult, a devoted team of teachers had made it enjoyable.
“It is lonely at the top but when you have good people it makes a difference,” she said. “My job was to empower teachers to do their best for the children.”
Henry-Gordy moved to the central office in 2003 when she began working in the student services department. She was appointed director of the department in 2017.
As the name of the department suggests, its staff focus on a variety of services meant to remove barriers to student learning. They oversee guidance and counseling, health services, alternative education and health education, in addition to home schooling and dropout prevention. Henry-Gordy said the biggest challenge of her career has been addressing the mental health issues that have come up in recent years. Locally, she said the slew of bomb threats the school system received several years ago changed things.
“The anxiety of the students became a very real concern,” she said. “They had anxiety before but it was taken to a different level.”
She stressed the importance of school counselors, as they’re the first ones to encounter students dealing with mental health concerns. Their drop boxes and buddy programs make them the first to become aware of any problems that might exist.
“School counselors are very dear to my heart,” Henry-Gordy said. “School counselors are the first responders. They can then refer students to an outside agency.”
In addition to overseeing counselors, Henry-Gordy’s department is also tasked with supervising alternative school, dealing with truancy and working with families in transition—those who are homeless. She acknowledged that she and her staff don’t always get to see positive results.
“We try to find the silver lining in student services,” she said, adding that seeing alternative school students return to their home schools and learning that teenagers who belonged to families in transition were enrolled in college were positive results she looked forward to.
As she prepares to step down from her position, Henry-Gordy says what she’ll miss the most is the relationships she’s built with the students. She won’t have much time to dwell on that though, as she will take on a new role the day after she ends her career with Worcester County Public Schools. While she’d planned to spend her first six months of retirement traveling, Henry-Gordy said God had different plans. On July 1 she becomes pastor at Zoar United Methodist Church in Selbyville.
“I’m thankful to God for that blessing and look forward to what else he has for me to do,” she said. “I’ll still be helping people.”