Thankful for our Opportunities for Education

As a child, I was sheltered and did not travel much beyond our rural community. Although I was a black girl from a poverty-stricken family, I didn’t understand my limitations until I started school.

The first day of kindergarten will forever be embedded in my memory. I walked into a class filled with students. I remember that day so well because I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was not “good enough” as I noticed all of the perceived perfections of the students that surrounded me. I compared the worn-out clothes that I was wearing to the new clothes that everyone else was wearing. I was fascinated by the new clothes and lunch kits that everyone else possessed.

I remember being mesmerized by my teacher who spoke perfect English and wore pretty clothes. I compared her to the ladies I had seen in the movies and on the soap operas. I wanted desperately for her to like me, but to my chagrin, our relationship started out rough.

It all started when it was time to take up lunch money. I remember squirming in my seat because my mother had not given me any lunch money. When my name was called, I hesitated and I remember being scared.

After my teacher repeated my name several times, I finally responded that I did not have any lunch money, nor had I brought my lunch. She then said, “You’re probably on free lunch” in the most hateful voice. I knew immediately from the tone of her voice that being on free lunch was not a good thing. This is how my first day of kindergarten started. My first day of kindergarten ended even worse. We were on the playground when a black boy called me “blackie” and caused all of the other students to laugh and mock me. I cried. Actually, I cried a lot that year.

Thankfully, kindergarten was my last experience with a teacher who I felt didn’t like me. Throughout my elementary school years, I excelled in school and worked fervently to meet my teachers’ expectations. One thing I know for sure is that life’s experiences can either make you bitter or better.

As I prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday and reflect on my entry into public education as a kindergartner, I am thankful that I was born in America. Although freedom is not free, all have the opportunity to attain a free, appropriate public education. I am thankful for education and that I get to live the American dream in spite of the circumstances and obstacles I have had to overcome as a result of being born into a family with limited resources.

I am thankful for the opportunity to serve in Lufkin ISD as the superintendent. Each day, I work fervently as your Superintendent of Schools, to ensure that all of our students have access to a quality, 21st century education. I feel extremely blessed to work with a Board of Trustees who is committed “to educate and equip all students for success through exceptional learning experiences” and work with administrators, teachers, and staff who are passionate about the work of educating our future leaders. I am thankful to all of the business and community leaders who have joined Team Lufkin ISD in our efforts. I am thankful that all internal and external stakeholders have accepted me for who I am and not how I started in kindergarten.

Published by drgoffney

Dr. LaTonya Goffney was named Lufkin ISD Superintendent in 2013. A native of Coldspring, Dr. Goffney began her career as a language arts teacher in Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD. Additionally, she served as assistant principal and principal before serving as superintendent at Coldspring-Oakhurst for five years. Dr. Goffney earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and English, a Master of Education degree in administration, and a Doctorate of Education degree in Educational Leadership, all from Sam Houston State University. In her new role as Superintendent of Lufkin ISD, Dr. Goffney has focused on building community support. She has established an Education Foundation to enhance educational opportunities for all students through innovative teacher grants, a Strategic Planning group involving more than 100 community members and created a Hispanic advisory committee called the Nuestras Madres to connect with the Hispanic mothers in the district. She implemented the Panther Community Forums, which are quarterly meetings to address topics with the community and parents. Dr. Goffney began the Team Lufkin ISD Student Ambassadors, a high school student advisory group to the superintendent. Annually, she hosts Lufkin ISD Evento en Español to inform the Hispanic community of educational opportunities. Dr. Goffney was the recipient of the 2013 Distinguished Administrator of the Year Award selected by the faculty of Sam Houston State University College of Education. She was named as one of only 22 members of the 2012-2013 Class of Phi Delta Kappa International Emerging Leaders. The PDK Emerging Leaders program recognizes top educators from across the world. She currently serves on the following civic boards: Lufkin/Angelina County Chamber of Commerce, The Coalition, and Angelina County Economic Development. She is president-elect of the Texas Council of Women School Executives and was recently elected as recording secretary to the Texas Association of Black School Educators. Dr. Goffney also serves on the Executive Board of the Texas Association of School Administrators. Dr. Goffney is married to Joseph Goffney. They have two children, Joseph, Jr., 14, and Joslyn, 10. Dr. Goffney and her husband, Joseph, have co-authored a book titled All is Well as a tribute to their special needs son. Their story has been featured in several local magazines.

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