Dr. Fred Abernathy is a native of Tuscumbia, Alabama. Currently, he is an assistant principal in the Decatur City Schools and an adjunct professor at Athens State University. He was raised by his mother in a single-parent home.
Throughout my educational career in elementary, middle, and high school, I had teachers who really cared about the total student. It was during this time that I wanted to become a teacher, coach, and mentor to students.
As an early student, I had the motivation, confidence, and determination to make a difference in my life so that I could positively affect other people’s lives. My mother worked two jobs to keep abreast of the bills and daily chores that she needed to perform for us as young children. As I got older, seeing her make those sacrifices throughout each day really motivated me to make my life better.
During this time, I was a decent basketball player, and my high school coach reinforced in me the same qualities that Mom was trying to instill. He taught us that being confident, determined, and motivated could help us, not only on the basketball court, but also in life. I continued to work hard on the court as well as in the classroom.
In addition, I had a part-time job at a local restaurant. During this time, I did not see the fruits of this labor, because it was very tough being a high school student in the 10th grade, having to manage this work, and being a main focal point on the school team.
However, I continued this same process throughout my high school career and was able to graduate with an advanced diploma. In addition, I was awarded several scholarships, including a Bryant Jordan Scholarship, awarded to students who overcome challenging experiences or situations, but still maintain good grades and excel in their particular sport. After high school, I was awarded a scholarship to play basketball at the college level (Northwest Shoals Community College). This was a dream come true, and I realized that being confident, motivated, and determined could really help in several tasks.
As stated earlier, I grew up without my father being in my life. My mother stressed the importance of treating others with respect and behaviors. My parents did not have a college education. Education was important for completing assignments and staying on task, but no one put pressure on me to attend college. However, I placed pressure on myself to be successful and make decent grades because of the environment that surrounded me. As a kid, I went to ball games with my uncle and witnessed several older kids who were great athletes; but they never attended college because they did not have the grades. As time went by, I would see them on the streets — not working or doing anything. I would see other college athletes on TV who were doing great things in their sports as well as in the classroom. At this time, being around eight or nine years old, I made a promise to myself to always work hard to be a successful person. I wanted to have a decent life for myself and be a positive influence on others.
My connection with Athens State University started in the fall of 1998. I enrolled at the university and majored in Collaborative/Special Education. I lived in the university dorms from the fall of 1998 to the summer of 2007. In the summer of 1999, I be-come a resident assistant while I was still a student at the university.
In the spring of 2000, I graduated from Athens State and became the resident director in the summer of 2000. I was the dorm director from the summer of 2000 to summer 2007.
I am a product of Tuscumbia City Schools in Alabama. I graduated from Deshler High School in 1996 with an advanced diploma. After high school, I attended Northwest-Shoals Community College in Phil Campbell, Alabama, on a basketball scholarship. In the spring of 1998, I graduated from Northwest Shoals Community College with an Associate of Arts degree in Pre-Secondary Education. I played at Northwest Shoals and transferred to Athens State University on a foundation scholarship. At Athens State, I majored in education. In the fall of 2000, I graduated from Athens State University with my Bachelor of Arts degree in education (Collaborative/Special Education).
Within the first two years of teaching, coaching, and directing the university dorms, I decided to go to Alabama A&M University to work on my master’s in Collaborative/Special Education. I completed all requirements for my master’s degree in the fall of 2002.
In the fall of 2004, I decided to go my back to A&M to work on my educational specialist degree in Collaborative/Special Education. I completed all requirements for the educational specialist degree in the spring of 2007. In the fall of 2008, I continued to attend school at Alabama A&M and completed another master’s in educational leadership. In 2009, I completed all requirements.
In the summer of 2010, I decided to attend Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, to work on my doctorate degree in the area of Executive Leadership. This was a very difficult challenge — with the travel from Alabama to Tennessee. We had to stay two weeks in summer at the main campus in Harrogate, and we would then meet in Knoxville, Tennessee, once a month on Fridays and Saturdays during the fall and spring semesters. My dissertation title was “ASSESSING THE ATTITUDES OF ADMINISTRATORS TO INCLUDE STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES.” I completed all requirements in the summer of 2012.
Being a lifelong learner, I attended the University of West Alabama in the spring of 2013 to obtain another master’s in the area of Instructional Leadership. I completed all requirements in the spring of 2014.
My educational background consists of the following: high school diploma, Associate of Arts degree in Pre-Secondary Education, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education (Collaborative Education), a Master of Arts degree in Education (Collaborative Education), an Educational Specialist (Collaborative Education), a Master of Arts degree in Education (Educational Administration), a doctoral degree (Executive Leadership), and a Master of Arts degree in Education (Instructional Leadership).
As a professional educator, I try to stay abreast of current education field trends and issues. In addition, I enjoy helping and meeting people, and seeing all of us become more productive citizens through coursework and workshops in the education field.
Since the fall of 2000, I have been employed by Decatur City Schools. I have worked as a special educator and assistant principal. Earlier in my teaching career, I coached middle school and high school basketball. In addition, I worked with at-risk students and elementary summer school students for several years.
As a leader, I strive to work hard so that students will be successful in the classroom as well as in life. Many of the students need role-models to guide them through daily challenges such as bullying and students picking on them. These students come from diverse backgrounds and have widely differing experiences that impact their lives; so, as educators, we must be very sensitive to each individual student.
I try to instill confidence in each student by seeing what he or she can do and then provide meaningful feedback to help these students see what steps to take next. This shows them the correct steps and provides them with goals that they can achieve. In this way, students will be motivated to learn and acquire new concepts, and will be able to monitor themselves as they progress through the curriculum. As a result, they will realize that they can face and learn from any challenge in front of them.
I relate my philosophy of education to the golden rule, categorical imperative, and the ethics of justice. All three of these items fit into my philosophy. I have always had people to help me, and I want to live in a world where others are always willing to help, regardless the situation. In addition, I want to treat people as I would like to be treated and serve individuals to make society a more productive place. As educational leaders or teachers, we have an ethics of justice to do what’s right for students or other members in our organization to help them succeed.
I struggle when I hear a teacher or administrator say that “he or she is from over there.” As professionals, we cannot look at the student’s environment and say that he or she will never make it. As a leader, I try to communicate to others that students cannot help where they come from, but they can do something about where they are going.
As I look back into my childhood, I see that many of the students that I help come from environments similar to what I had. As a leader, I relate to them and share my story. I inform the students not to make excuses, but to use their situation as their guide to make them work harder. I tell each student that I wanted a better situation than what I had when I was smaller. As I speak to the students, I can see the fire in their eyes. They want to succeed. However, the lack of support from parents, community, and leaders within the community creates additional obstacles for several of the students. I try to bridge the gap, as my coach did with me as I was going through public schools. Several of my friends came from low-income families, and we grew up in housing projects. We did not have lots of money, but we were loyal, kind, and treated everyone with respect. Our parents taught us to treat everyone equally with love and to help as many people as possible. As I look back on my life, I always wanted to help and serve people so that they can be successful individuals. Many of my childhood friends did not graduate from high school, nor did they attend college. As I went through high school and college, I kept them in mind so that I might have an opportunity to help others.
I am grateful and praise the Lord for allowing me the ability to help others in today’s society. Upon death, no one will care how many letters are behind our names or how many degrees we have completed. They will remember what kind of people we were and how we conducted ourselves. As I conclude, I want to continue to strive and dedicate myself to help others the way my Mom, the great Martin Luther King, and my coach continue to do for others. All three of these individuals have influenced others directly and indirectly by the way they handled themselves.