|Dr. Virginia (Ginger) Minshew stands in the library at Park View High School. Times-Mirror/Jonathan Taylor|
Walking into Park View High School Principal Dr. Virginia Minshew's office, there is a bulletin board full of her past students, colleagues and friends.
“That board is the first thing I see every day when I walk into my office and the last thing I see when I leave the office for the night,” Minshew said.
On June 30, Minshew, 57, will close her principal's office door for the final time at Park View and enter into retirement.
A 33-year career full of memories and relationships - which are proudly displayed on her bulletin board and throughout her office - will end with the retirement of one of the longest tenured high school principals in Loudoun.
Minshew has spent the last 26 years in LCPS, with the past nine as principal at Park View.
Currently, only Dr. John Brewer at Dominion High School has a longer tenure as principal at a high school in Loudoun.
Despite leaving her office, Minshew will never lose the relationships she has built. That is Minshew's proudest achievement.
“For me, its not an award, but its the kids,” she said. “Thirty-three years ago I had a young man in my class, the first class I ever taught, who I am still in contact with. It is about the relationships you build with people.
“People laugh at the bulletin board, but that bulletin board represents 26 years in Loudoun County Public Schools.”
Minshew never considered a career other than education. She knew as far back as elementary school.
“I always wanted to be a teacher. I had a lot of great teachers growing up. I really credit my elementary teachers, grades 1 through 5, who I can still name,” Minshew said.
Her family also serves as an inspiration. “My great aunt Mary Bell, who was a special ed teacher, was also an amazing woman and teacher.”
Minshew's father was a lobbyist. As a result, her family moved frequently when she was young.
She moved to Northern Virginia from Richmond when she was a junior in high school, eventually graduating from Robinson High School in Fairfax.
After graduation, Minshew received her Bachelor's degree in Sociology and Social Studies from Lenoir-Rhyne College and a Master's Degree in Special Education from George Mason University.
Minshew started her education career as an attendance officer and an alternative to suspension coordinator in Fairfax County. Following that she became a social studies teacher at Chantilly High School and a special education teacher at Washington Irving Intermediate School.
She came to Loudoun after a two-year sabbatical. During her sabbatical she completed her doctorate in administration and supervision at the University of Virginia.
Once in Loudoun, her first position was as an assistant principal at Broad Run High School. She held this job for 10 years.
She was also an assistant principal at Potomac Falls High School beginning the year it opened.
Minshew's first job as principal came at Farmwell Station Middle School. She was there for seven years, from 1998 to 2005, before moving to her current position at Park View.
“When I came here, I knew this was where I was going to end my career,” Minshew said. “ I think the diversity here totally appealed to me from the standpoint that Park View is really a microcosm of our society today.
“Most places in our country don't mirror what we have in Loudoun County. In terms of diversity and some of the things kids bring to the table this is really what is real and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Minshew acknowledged the constant change in the community has not only been intriguing for her, but also helped her become a better educator.
“I have gotten more from being the principal here than I think I have given because I have really learned a lot,” Minshew said. “I have learned that kids are kids no matter where they come from. They may look different, speak a different language, but a 14-year-old is a 14-year-old. I am also in awe of what some of our students come to school with every day, whether they are caring for multiple family members or they are working two jobs to help support their family.”
Minshew is proud that 84 percent of her students go on to post-secondary education, a number she believes people may be surprised to hear.
“There are a lot of misconceptions of Park View, and my most important job over the last nine years has not only been to be the instructional leader for this school, but also be its biggest cheerleader,” Minshew said. “We celebrate the diversity here because it is so engrained and an important part of our school community and its culture that we think about it as the way we do business everyday.”
Minshew knows the time is right to retire.
“I still love my job, love my school, I love my kids and I love the Park View community. It is time for me to do something different.
“I have had 51 first days of school. This will be the first September in a long time I haven't had a first day of school.”