Tri-City Ledger -

By Gretchen McPherson
Ledger Staff 

Byrd is retiring after 40 years in education

Served as first director of Pensacola State College's Century campus; reception set for Aug. 29 in Century


August 22, 2019

Courtesy Photo

Byrd set to retire on Aug. 30 from Pensacola State College

There will be a new face at Pensacola State College (PSC) in Century this fall as Director Paula Byrd is retiring.

Serving as director of PSC's Century campus since its opening in January 2012, Byrd has taught in Florida public schools for 40 years and hopes that she can continue to be involved in helping others learn and find success.

Byrd completed her first two years at Lake Sumpter Community College in Leesburg, Fla. after graduating from Leesburg High School in 1975. She then moved to Pensacola in 1977 to attend the University of West Florida and got her bachelor's degree in special education.

"I graduated in 1979 and went to work at the Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC) Gateway, starting a job in the middle of that summer as a pre-K teacher for at-risk and developmentally delayed 3- and 5-year-olds," said Byrd. "We developed a program for infants up to 3-years-old who were at risk of being developmentally delayed for two and a half years, then another two and a half as an early intervention specialist, where I went into the home and taught families how to stimulate their children's learning, connecting them with different therapies that were available."

In 1984, Byrd accepted a job with the Escambia County School System and started teaching in Century at Carver Middle School on Pond Street.

"I really loved working at Carver Middle School," said Byrd. "We had an amazing group of teachers, and the kids were great. My best years of teaching were at Caver Middle School."

Byrd said she taught mostly special needs and some gifted students and general education there.

In 1995, Century High School and Ernest Ward High School students were moved to the newly-built Northview High School and the students at Carver Middle School were moved to the Century High School building.

The process of consolidating Carver Middle School and Century Elementary School began in 2001, when new buildings and renovations and consolidations took place, and the administrative area and library were added.

In 2002, it became Carver Century K-8, including pre-K.

In August 2009, the Carver Century K-8 School was closed and students moved to Bratt Elementary and Ernest Ward Elementary School when the county consolidated some of the schools, so Byrd ended up at Ernest Ward Middle School.

"That was hard, those years were hard, when they were closing the school," said Byrd. "The last couple of years Carver Century was open, we were fighting to keep it open."

Byrd taught science at Ernest Ward, although she had several certifications, including school principal, special education K-12, middle grades integrated curriculum, certified behavior intervention specialist, certified mediator for special education cases, certified trainer for aha! Project and a certified emergency first responder with McDavid Fire Department from 1991 to 1998.

She taught from August 2009 to December 2011 at Ernest Ward Middle School, teaching sixth and seventh grade science, until the opening of PSC in Century in January 2012.

"I've taught all grades, sixth, seventh and eighth, although I was originally hired as special education teacher," said Byrd.

Byrd said she applied for the job at PSC because it was a new and unique opportunity.

"Several people who worked in the town and were working with PSC getting ready to open the center approached me about applying, suggested that I apply," she said. "It took a lot of soul searching to leave the classroom. My plan had been to be in administrations and when I left Carver Century I was in administration."

Byrd said she will have options after retirement and that she would love to stay involved with education in the Century area.

"I would love to stay involved through work force or community or early learning," said Byrd. "There's so may options, open doors."

Byrd said she does plan to travel some and spend time in the mountains in her cabin in North Carolina.

When asked what her dream post-retirement job might be, Byrd expressed her passion as working with people and education.

"You could umbrella it under community development," said Byrd. "It would involve wellness, job readiness, the Bridges Out of Poverty initiatives, and working with early learning program, with parents who want to help get their children poised and ready. I'd love to see the Studer early learning community stuff up here."

Byrd did say those are all based on grant-funding, but there are no positions like those currently in the area. She said she would love to help people of all ages get ready to school.

Except for a few years when she wanted to be a marine biologist, Byrd said she always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She said that her aunt ran a daycare in her home and all of the children she kept were students with special needs.

"From my first experience in school, in kindergarten, I can remember thinking that teacher had the coolest job, getting to do all this cool stuff with kids," said Byrd. "I grew up seeing my aunt and uncle involved with individuals with special needs and that was just always what I wanted to do. I always wanted to teach."

An open house retirement party for Byrd on her last day will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 29, at PSC's Century campus. Everyone is invited.


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