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Principal retires after 40 years of touching the lives of children

Photo source: WEAR-TV

Terry Colburn, principal at Escambia Westgate School, remembers what peaked her interest in teaching. "Back in the first grade ... I went to a Catholic school so I had mutliple sisters teaching and I was impressed with all that they got to do in the classroom."

As early as first grade, Terry Colburn knew she was destined to always be in a schoolhouse. In particular, she felt her calling in classrooms and schools where there were children with special needs; like Escambia Westgate School. She's the principal at this center for students with every type of exceptionality. "To get them accepted and to build their confidence because they experience failutre so often at times, especially when I was in high school; by the time they got to high school age, some had given up."

"Giving up" and "can't" are not in her vocabulary. Parents and staff at Escambia Westgate Schoolare quick to tell you that she's all about making the impossible happen for the students.

Nicole Brown's son Cory has been at Westgate since kindergarten. He's now about to graduate. "Everything she does is student based. What's best for the student; what would help them be the best person that they could be."

Steven Matsheshu-Nojiri is a special education teacher. He says Terry Colburn sets the example for all of her staff to follow. "Leader; that's the first word that comes to mind for Ms. Colburn. Leader and very compassionate; very empathetic to the students."

Reading teacher Ashley McCombs agrees there's never a question about where their focus lies. "She always puts the children first. Any decision that she's ever made is either data driven and before she makes a decision, she asks herself, how will this affect the children."

She refuses to set limitations on any child and focuses on finding that one key, that one piece of adaptive equipment, that one adjustment that helps them go a step farther than they thought they could. "That moment where the parent realizes or the child realizes that, even though you told me it never could happen, it did happen. So, we live for those moments."

After 40 years of "moments", Terry Colburn is retiring. She leaves a legacy in the countless lives she has touched. Matsheshu-Nojiri says that includes her staff as well as the students. "What a loss for us. I have been honored to work under her. So, thank you very much for your service and you will be missed."

Angels In Our Midst is sponsored by the Studer Family Children's Hospital at Sacred Heart.

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