“It’s all about the children,” stated the newly approved permanent Yantis Schools Superintendent Tracey Helfferich. In fact, any conversation with the superintendent returns to caring for, teaching, and taking care of children. It is the hallmark of her 25-year teaching and school administration career.
After serving adjunct duties as superintendent for the past year, the Yantis School Board offered, and Helfferich accepted, the permanent superintendent position at a special board meeting last month. Helfferich commented the support from the board over the past year has been “simply amazing,” and further offered that the district has made significant progress with the board’s efforts.
Although hailing from Corsicana, the superintendent has called Sulphur Springs home for most of her life. She attended Texas A &M University in Commerce where she received her teaching certificate in Reading, and did further studies both there and at Texas A & M Texarkana for her principal and superintendent certifications. She and her husband, Jim, remain residents of Sulphur Springs.
Helfferich credits both her mother, who continues to teach at Blooming Grove School, and her children for leading her to a teaching profession. Helfferich explained “My mother was certainly the primary influence, but raising two daughters led me to the conclusion that I needed to continue to teach and develop youngsters”. Once her daughters became adults, Helfferich decided to pursue a principalship. After teaching at Cumby Elementary School for eighteen years, she went on to serve three years as their principal. She also credits and thanks her husband for supporting her career decisions.
The superintendent described a special quality in the young people at Yantis schools. After reflecting for a moment, she stated with certainty, “Genuine… they are genuine.” She also described the incredible sense of caring and love which the teachers at Yantis demonstrate to their students. The sense of students belonging under her care was evident throughout the interview.
Helfferich described her desire to capitalize on the momentum in Yantis School to build and expand the relationships between the school and the greater Yantis community. The unique financial status of Yantis ISD, the tax base issue, the geographic dispersion of the local population, and a large percentage of economically-disadvantaged families are among the issues which require greater cooperation and understanding between the school and the community. The economic factors of available jobs and adequate housing in a district featuring a large population of retirees are issues which must be faced together, she stated. Acknowledging the challenges, Helfferich admitted she is a “people person” who loves to learn, a combination which will be necessary to meet these challenges.
Returning to fundamentals of schooling, the superintendent described her philosophy of teaching as based on the premise that every child must be taught individually. This philosophy may have its basis in Helfferich’s experiences garnered while working as a Response to Intervention administrator at Cumby School, determining the educational needs and paths for young students.
Determining pathways for the 383 students and 54 employees of Yantis Schools is now her charge. Based on the passion and energy evident in the new permanent superintendent, there is no doubt the school will be moving forward. As Superintendent Helfferich exclaimed, “I love my kiddos!”