|Stone Bridge Principal Jim Person
Times-Mirror Photo/Jonathan Taylor|
As the final days of his illustrious career dwindle down, Stone Bridge High School's first and only principal Jim Person doesn't believe that impending retirement has quite hit him yet.
But after 39 years, Person finally gets to graduate.
His last day will be June 30.
Person, who is one of the longest tenured principals in Loudoun County at their current school, is retiring after 36 years as an administrator in Loudoun County.
“You know at the twilight of your career you start thinking about the memories and people you met along the way,” Person said. “You don't remember who passed this SOL test or who got a two, three, four or five on that AP test. It really is the memories and they are built around the people you meet.”
Looking back on his career, he remembers visiting China four times, going with the band to perform in London, visiting Saint Bernard Parish, La. after Hurricane Katrina and eating lunch at a table with Barbara Bush and President Reagan at the table next to him.
He even once tried to break up a student party only to be chased over the backyard fence by a homeowner's dog, a story he still laughs about today.
During his career, Person has been an assistant principal in Loudoun at Park View, Loudoun Valley and Loudoun County high schools.
His first job in Loudoun was at Loudoun Valley High School.
His career has come full circle as he was first hired by Jerry Shipp, whose son, Sam, is now the principal at Woodgrove High School.
“I watched Sam grow up and now I am really completing my career circle with him being the principal at Woodgrove,” Person said. “Jerry took me under his wing and really helped show me how to be a good principal during my career.”
He became the principal at Park View in 1991 and moved on to open Stone Bridge in 1999.
Person is widely respected by teachers, administrators, parents in the community as well as his students.
Stone Bridge High School senior Amanda Ryerse said she's proud to have been one of Person's students.
"He not only inspires and encourages every single student, teacher and faculty member to strive for success, but ensures that every one does. 'You're a bulldog, you go to Stone Bridge, be proud of it' is one of Mr. Person's quotes that encompasses his impact on me and Stone Bridge in general,” Ryerse said. “His dedication and love for his school is incredible. I always see him at sporting events, choir concerts, school plays and so much more cheering on SBHS. It will be sad to lose him as a principal, however I know that he will ensure whoever follows in his footsteps will continue the same level of enthusiasm and pride that Stone Bridge has come to know and love.”
Person takes the time to see all of his old students who come to visit, no matter what he's doing at that moment.
“I tell my staff to come get me whenever one of my former students comes in to see me,” Person said. “You never know. Sometimes they need you for something or want you to write them a reference. I remember a kid who came to visit me and was going to be shipped out in the Army and he introduced me to his son.”
When Person, a native of Richmond, graduated from William and Mary he wasn't sure what he wanted to do for a career.
While in school he would come home and do odd jobs during the summer like cleaning oil tanks, installing runway lights at small, private airports and others.
With a major in history and minor in philosophy and government, he went to college thinking he would go to law school, but during his senior year he decided it may be fun to teach.
His experience student teaching sealed the deal for him and he was drawn by his desire to learn.
“I got hired about three days before the year started in a section of Richmond I hadn't grown up in teaching middle school,” Person said. “It was one of the greatest educational experiences I have ever had. I learned kids are kids and if they can trust you and if you have their interest even when you are getting on them, they will step up. Kids have this knack that they can break you down so they can help build you up ... [ultimately] they want their teachers to be successful.”