CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Longtime Piedmont Elementary School Principal Steve Knighton celebrated his last day on the job Friday.
The Charleston educator, who got his start student teaching at Piedmont in 1972, said he’s having a hard time letting it sink in that he won’t be sitting at his desk when students return from their fall break next month.
“It’s kind of bittersweet. All of my adult life has been at Piedmont or definitely in education,” said Knighton.
When Knighton began his full-time career at Piedmont on Charleston’s East End he was a 6th grade teacher in the state’s only year-round school.
“We were encouraged to be risk takers and think outside the box,” stressed Knighton. “A lot of people didn’t want to do that. They didn’t want to stick their heads out. And I never cared about that. I mean, what could go wrong?”
He said he was surrounded by the best of the best educators in the county. Piedmont had a full-time art teacher, music teacher, phys ed teacher and even a technologist in the early 70s. He stressed he learned from others around him and took with him a very good lesson he followed his entire career.
“If you surround yourself with intelligent, bright, creative people, it makes you look good!”
After 8 years as a teacher, he was promoted to vice principal at Piedmont. Then he went to Big Chimney Elementary for a short time as principal. He got the call to return to Piedmont as the principal in 1989. He’s held the same position ever since and he said every day has been a joy.
The favorite part of the job according to Knighton, “Watching kids understand what you’re trying to teach them and get so good at it, that they thank you for it.”
He isn’t giving up education cold turkey. Knighton is already on the sub list for any temporary administration positions. But he said it’s finally time to slow down a bit. He and his wife plan to travel and spend more time with his family spread out across the country.
He said the real wake up call that it was time to retire was when he held a grandparent luncheon at the school and he saw a lot of familiar faces.
“I have seen the kids of kids of kids. I have grandparents and that was the rude awakening,” he laughed. “I had those grandparents in school. Now remember they were 12 and I was 22 and now they’re 53 and I’m 63.”
The school gave him a big sendoff with a party Thursday night. Friday morning all the students at Piedmont released balloons from the playground in Knighton’s honor.