JOPLIN, Mo. — After 29 years of first days, homework, and graduation – it’s the last, last week of school at Joplin High for its principal.
“I had had the notion that I was going to get a degree to teach high school English,” said Dr. Stephen Gilbreth, JHS principal.
That job didn’t come through in 1988.
So Stephen Gilbreth was a permanent sub for a couple of years and even worked outside education for a few more before landing a teaching job at North Middle School.
“I started out teaching technology kind of because of my background with computers and that kind of thing,” said Gilbreth.
He would later serve as a principal at three different Joplin schools, with a two-year stop as an assistant superintendent mixed in.
29 years in all.
Academic excellence is the goal, but for Steve, it’s also building strong relationships.
“I think the greatest thing that we can do is impact somebody’s life in a positive way. And I, you know, when I think that’s beyond education, I think that’s everywhere,” said Gilbreth.
Maybe his biggest test came in 2006 when a student fired a shot in Memorial Middle School, threatening teachers and other kids.
“I knew at the time that I was going to do everything I could to not allow anybody to lose their life. And I knew at the time I didn’t even have a second thought that that was what I was going to do,” said Gilbreth.
He intervened, and no lives were lost.
He also has strong memories after the 2011 Joplin tornado.
His school survived, but Steve spent countless hours checking on his students.
“We rode our bicycles all over Joplin. And we drove to every home, to the home of every single one of our kids to check on them and make sure they’re okay,” said Gilbreth.
He adds there have been too many good memories to count.
Also, countless hours on the job, something he wouldn’t change — framing it as an educational investment in the future.
“I would say to anybody that’s going into that. If you are looking for something to really have a positive change and a positive impact on people’s lives, education would be the place to do it,” said Gilbreth.
His last day is next month.
After a quick break, Gilbreth will take over as the principal for 6th through 12th grade at the Joplin Area Catholic Schools.