Surprised By Joy:
The Life Career of a Palestine High School Principal
One thing that strikes students upon attending Palestine High School is that they are surprised by joy! Principal Tangi Waldrop showers it down- sometimes with correction but more often with praise.
When Principal Tangi Waldrop announced her retirement five years ago, she never could have imagined just how hard her last two years were to be. The way to the finish line has been full of peaks and valleys and when May 2021 comes into view, no one will be more full of mixed emotions.
My final year would have been bittersweet regardless of circumstances! I am so blessed to be able to come to school each day and be with my amazing students and staff during such a difficult time in our lives. They give me comfort and strength! Our students have been so resilient. They have remained positive and optimistic throughout, and because of that, I have great hope for the future! - Principal Waldrop
Tracking Principal Waldrop over the last 36 years in her career as an educator would see you through every building of Crawford County CUSD #3. She began working in CUSD #3 as a paraprofessional in 1989 at Palestine Grade School, becoming a full-time English/Language Arts teacher in 1995 teaching at the junior high level. In 2012, she became the principal of Palestine High School. “I have always wanted to be an educator!“ Principal Waldrop said.
Waldrop may not have foreseen our current events but being raised in Robinson by her parents, Larry and Rheta Waldrop, brought her many of the skills and relationships that would help her connect with the community. Growing up in Crawford County with her sister, Tracy Ackman, young Tangi was a part of band, softball, basketball, yearbook, newspaper while attending Washington Elementary, then Nuttall Middle School, graduating Robinson High School.
Continuing on to graduate from Lincoln College earned her an Associate in Liberal Arts degree. She then continued her education to earn her BS in Education and MS in Educational Administration from Eastern Illinois University.
Her unique devotion to each student has created a culture of caring and support at Palestine High School that is exceptional. If you were to catch her in action at the high school- you might have to pick up the pace. Her Fitbit usually logs 12,000 steps on an average day and that is not counting the infamous stairs at the high school.
When asked about their Principal, one student said,
“Mrs. Waldrop is a very kind and considerate person who cares about her students and staff members.”
Wow, that’s a direct quote from a teenager! Other students replied that they wish she wasn’t going to retire and that they hope to still see her. One student wrote,
“I appreciate [Ms. Waldrop] always letting me get into the gym and weight room. [She has] helped me get into a position I could’ve never dreamt of!”
Another student went so far as to say,
“ [Ms. Waldrop] is so sweet and helps me more than anyone ever has.”
Waldrop's support doesn’t end with the students and families; her staff is also a part of her ‘Peeps’. Working through each level of the education system has given Waldrop an understanding that helps her fight for her staff at all levels.
I am one of the lucky ones! I have personally experienced many of Ms. Waldrop's roles as an educator! As a graduate of Palestine, I had Ms. Waldrop as a teacher in junior high, then again as a coach in high school! I will always remember her humor and how she made things fun and enjoyable. I always felt welcome in her classroom and on her team! Fast forward a few years and our paths cross again only now, she is my colleague. Same humor and love for all students! Now, with her as our principal, I have the privilege of working with her in the position she was destined for! Her compassion for students, families, and educators never waivers and she is an inspiration to me. The Palestine School District is a better place because of Ms. Waldrop's influences. I am a better person and educator because of Ms. Waldrop's influences. -Jessica Will, Guidance Counselor
I will always be forever grateful for Ms. Waldrop, she is the reason I am the District Art Teacher here in Palestine. She has always had faith in my abilities and has always been a wonderful support system. Thank you for helping me get the career of my dreams, and thank you for bringing the art department back to Palestine schools. -Kaylee Wartsbaugh, Art teacher
Ms.Waldrop has been a part of my life since I was 11 years old as I went through junior high at Palestine Grade School. Her stakes in class were high and she always pushed us to do our best. Anything less was unacceptable. She was driven then, and is still today! Fast forward through high school and college I earned my first job in education in Robinson, IL. I had her nephew in my very first class. He still, to this day is one of my favorites (who I know she adores as well). After that I finished my degree in administration in 2006. She caught me coming out of “Attitude” one day and personally stopped me, congratulated me on my degree and told me that she knew I would do great things. She also reminded me of my roots when she said, “Don’t forget about Palestine” at the end of our conversation. That stuck with me. I didn’t forget, and I truly believe that her statement is what kept me always interested in returning to my roots. She’s been a rock for this district. She is the sharpest individual I’ve ever worked with, and I think I speak for everyone when I say she definitely keeps me on my toes and on the right track. My professional ride with her has been way too quick, but I’m so happy for what’s to come for her in her retirement. She’s earned it for sure! -Jessica Sisil, District Superintendent
I am forever grateful that Ms. Waldrop chose to believe in me. Without her tenacity and encouragement, I may not have become a member of the Palestine CUSD #3 family. I have found many words of encouragement in our discussions. Ms. Waldrop’s ability to communicate so effectively, with everyone, will be greatly missed. Not often are you able to have your boss also be your friend. Thank you Ms. Waldrop-Holly Inboden, Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher
She has constantly cared about me, my family, and my success. She is a wonderful supporter and will always be a great friend,” Caleb Will, Math Teacher
I started teaching here at PHS the same year Tangi began as principal. From day one, she has been firm, but encouraging. I have especially appreciated her support of extracurricular organizations and have many times appreciated her helping work out difficult situations. Most recently, with Drama Club, she made it possible for us to perform a play we'd been practicing off and on since last spring. When COVID quarantines, work schedules, and weather made an outdoor performance impossible, and it looked as though we simply would not be able to perform this play, Tangi worked out a plan that finally made it happen. It's been a pleasure to work with someone who's been on the other side and understands the challenges of both teaching and sponsoring student organizations. - Susan Hyde, Language Arts Teacher
I would like to thank Tangi for all she has done for me over the years. She has always cared and been there for me! I am truly grateful for her as a boss and a friend!! -Travis Blank, PE/Driver Ed Teacher
In 22 years of teaching at PHS, Ms. Waldrop is my sixth principal. Without hesitation, she has been the best we have had. Charlie Gillespie often calls, and he told me last week that he would like to sub for Ms. Waldrop one more time before her retirement, if possible. His quote to me was "I have been involved with Palestine for a long time, and she is the best you've had".
-Stuart Smith, Biology Teacher
Ms. Waldrop is always willing to go above and beyond for her students and her staff. It always seems like she and I are the first ones at school every morning. I will definitely miss our “good mornings” next year. As a first-year teacher, she helped me with so much and gave me the confidence that I needed. With the years gone by, I always went to her for questions and guidance. She will be missed but I know I can always count on her. I wish Ms. Waldrop a happy and healthy retirement.
Ms. Jamie Cutright, History Teacher
Having known Ms. Waldrop as a community member for most of our acquaintance, I really had no idea what her job was like, and how dedicated she is to it. She makes her work look like she’s having the best time of her life when she is talking to the students. I’ve seen her extend kindness and discipline in the same breath. I consider myself lucky to have been hired by her. Thank you - Laurel Adams, Apex Facilitator/Teacher’s Aide
When reflecting on the past and considering the future, Waldrop stated,
“The lowest point of my career was during the shutdown! I worried about my staff and students to the point of being physically sick. A part of me was missing, and I grieved that loss. I hope that is not what retirement feels like!"
After such a long career in education, she often says she could write a book about it. Some of her statements that students and staff remember are:
Be comfortable in your own skin!
Nothing changes if nothing changes!
We are small but we are mighty! We are mighty because we are small!
Melody Benton, Resources teacher said, “She always used to tell me “I don’t have a crystal ball”, so I got her one for her birthday.
It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see the future is bright for Palestine High School for many years because of the lasting impression one life has made on these grounds. Ms. Tangi Waldrop will be missed but not forgotten. We now hope to return the favor and spark joy into the retired life of a unique high school principal. Please think of ways this next semester to extend your best wishes to Principal Waldrop.