Derwood Tutor, the director of the Tupelo School District’s Hancock Leadership Center, announced this week he will retire at the end of June, following a 50-year career as an educator. Tutor has spent the last 43 of those years in Tupelo Schools, where he was a principal, assistant superintendent and the only director in the Hancock Center’s 20-year history. Daily Journal education reporter Chris Kieffer spoke with Tutor about his career as an educator.
Q: Have you thought about how it will feel to step away from a career you’ve had for 50 years? What do you think you will miss the most?
A: Yes, I have thought about it. That is one reason I’ve continued to work as long as I have. I think I’ll still be able to continue to help, and those people I know in education will continue to call on me, and I don’t think I will be totally separated from that. What I will miss the most will be the personal relationships that I had with colleagues in administration and in the teaching profession. I will miss that, plus the relationships I made with the members of our Tupelo community.
Q: Tell me about a moment from your career that still makes you laugh.
A: In about 1989 or 1990, Dr. Richard Thompson was our superintendent, and we had just passed the bond election to build the new high school and do additions at several other schools. We had all been working that day to make sure everything was covered; that was the largest one Tupelo had ever passed and one of the largest in the state of Mississippi.
About 8:30 or 9 p.m., we got the results from the election, and it had passed. Dr. Thompson came up to me and said Derwood, since you worked a long day, you need to go home. He said we’re going to have a party or celebration, but you don’t need to be there.
It makes me laugh because he knew the kind of person I was and that I wouldn’t fit into that situation, and he said you can go home.
I’m proud he knew that about me, and it is a good feeling on my part he would view me in such a way.
Q: Obviously, you have seen much during your 50 years as an educator. What advice do you leave to today’s administrators?
A: My advice to educators is to put God first in their lives and follow his directions and instructions. Jeremiah 29:11 is a good promise from God, and it applies to educators, as well as all other people. It is the verse that I go by, and it is a verse that educators should go by.
My advice to educators would be to have the characteristics that God can put into your lives and then you can put them into the lives of other people. Those characteristics are things like love, goodness, kindness and patience. All of those are things educators need to have in their lives, and if they can do that, they can succeed in helping other people.