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Long-time Gleason educator looks to the future in adult ed

Long-time Gleason educator looks to the future in adult ed
Long-time Gleason educator looks to the future in adult ed | Mitchell Parham, Mr. P, Gleason High School, Adult Learning Center

After 31 years with Gleason School, Mitchell Parham bids a fond farewell and says hello to the Weakley County Adult Learning Center.
The Press 7.9.10 On the basketball court, from the classroom and in the hallways of Gleason School, for 31 years one certain person could be counted on to cheer students on to success.
This year, however, Mitchell Parham, fondly known as Mr. P., will be leaving the Orange and Black behind and will move on to the position of director of the Adult Learning Center.
Parham began his career in education as a teacher of American history, eighth-grade social studies, civics, geography, economics and American government.
In the fall of 1986, he became the assistant principal and two years later, he took over the position of athletic director for Coach Bob Dilday.
Not long after becoming a teacher at Gleason, Parham brought something to the table that would eventually cement his spot in the annals of Bulldog history — he started “the cheer”.
“It started at a junior high pep rally in the fall of 1980,” Parham recalled.
“It didn’t go public until the girls’ sub-state game of 1990 in Scotts Hill. I’m not quite sure how it started, but I was helping the football coach and he told me to get out and fire up the crowd, so I did.”
The G-L-E-A-S-O-N cheer was officially born, but it was first seen by live audience at a small gym in Scotts Hill that Parham likened to the facility in the film “Hoosiers”.
“The cheering sections in the 80s and 90s were not like now. It wasn’t like being about to be with the kids like now, but at the sub-state game in Scotts Hill in 1990, the gym was small and the crowds faced each other,” Parham remembered.
Though the game did not start until 7 p.m., the crowd arrived early. Mack Chandler, an elderly man and father to the Scotts Hill coach served to rally the Lion crowd.
Someone from the Gleason side announced that the Bulldogs had a cheerleader as well and Parham raced to the floor to form his body into the letters that spelled out the town name and punctuate his spelling with fist pumps.
“It was great fun. We were both small communities. Mack and I did the cheers at sub-state games in 1992 and 1994. We had such a good time. Mack called me one Sunday afternoon a few years later and wanted to check up on how basketball was doing in this area. He’s passed away since then. The rest is history,” Parham admitted.
Over his three decades of teaching, Parham has experienced changes to the system and the students, but the foundation and goals have remained the same.
“We still have the responsibility to teach the kids and they still have the responsibility to learn,” he emphasized.
“In 31 years, we’ve gone through different phases and plans on how to educate the students, but it really just boils down to the fact that you’ve got to get the information out there for the kids to absorb.”
Parham admits that kids have changed and family makeup has changed, but Gleason has remained a great community with great students. He admits that Gleason School has support that is often difficult to find in other schools.
Taking over as director of the Adult Learning Center, Parham will be filling the shoes of long-time director and recent retiree Julia Rich.
“It’s an administrative move. I feel like I can bring organization and make contacts. It’s different from what I’m used to — I’m used to pre-k through 12 and now I’ll be dealing with students trying to get GEDs. The end result is the same, though. I’m helping people get an education, get a GED, go on to college. I’ll be dealing not only with Weakley County, but also the state. I’ll be dealing with the county and state budget,” he explained.
Rich retired from the position after 23 years and Parham hopes to continue the success she had brought to the center, success known to the entire state. He has been working with Rich and the staff over the past few days to familiarize himself with the position.
“I’ve met with most of the staff and that’s one of the draws to the job — the excellent staff. I will have to find my way through it,” he admitted.
Having already talked with the Director of Schools Randy Frazier, Parham has discussed his ideas about renovating the building to add more classrooms for technical and industrial courses and even college credit.
He admits it will take hard work, dedication and the support of the county commission with grants, but he believes it can be accomplished.
For now, Parham is taking down memories off the wall in his office in Gleason School. Down go famous orange ties, awards inscribed on plaques and pictures of students. Between 75 and 80 coffee cups are packed away.
Parham’s successor, boys’ basketball coach Lee Lawrence, stands outside waiting to receive more instruction.
“I’m going to miss the teachers. You don’t stay somewhere 31 years without building good close friendships. It’s a very good staff. They’re like family,” Parham said.
“Of course, I’ll miss the students. We have a good student body. During basketball and football season, I will miss everything. Especially tournament time. I will feel it the most then. I will miss the times we went to tournaments with the kids. Gleason is known for that,” Parham stressed.
When he no longer frequents the hallways of Gleason School, he hopes to be remembered as a person who “cared for students — athletically and academically” having also been a Beta Club sponsor for 31 years.
He hopes he will be remembered for being involved with the students in different ways and for “always trying to do things for the students that maybe other schools don’t do for their students”.
When asked about who might take over “the cheer,” Parham responds that it might just “fade into history.” Another chapter closed and another one soon to open and Parham is ready to lead a new group of students by continuing to cheer them on to success in school and life.