Carol Goings first walked into a school at age 5 and she never really left.
That is, until this week. After her time spent in school and college classrooms as a student, Goings became an education professional. She is retiring after a 41-year career spent teaching students, serving as a school administrator, and finally assisting teachers in her role as an instructional specialist. Her last 18 years have been spent right here in Milledgeville as a fixture with the Baldwin County School District.
“I’m reflecting on the years and all of the close friendships I have made in the different positions, in the different states, and in the different school systems, and how that’s enriched my life — the students I have touched and how our paths have crossed over the years now that they’re adults. I’ve seen them grow and prosper and I know that I’ve had a part in that,” Goings told The Union-Recorder in a sit-down interview Wednesday, her second to last day on the job.
A native of Lake Charles, La., Goings’ educational journey was no different than most children. She attended the local Episcopal Day School for kindergarten, but it was as an elementary student where her future career path was decided, thanks to the efforts of her fourth-grade teacher Norma Tornabene and fifth-grade instructor Ruby Greene. Goings recalls “Tornabene” being a spelling word on her first fourth-grade spelling test because she did not like having her name misspelled.
“She was wonderful because she made learning fun,” Goings said of her fourth-grade teacher. “She was so kind, understanding, and complimentary of us.”
Similarly, what stood out about Greene was her caring nature and ability to create a positive learning environment for her pupils. Goings even recalls Greene taking the entire class to her home for parties.
“She made going to school something you wanted to do,” Goings reflected.
On through junior high and high school the lifelong educator advanced before attending Louisiana’s McNeese State University while majoring in early childhood education. She received her bachelor’s degree and was ready to enter the teaching profession for the 1976-77 school year, but there was only one problem. Teaching positions were not as widely available as they are today, so a month before school was set to start Goings sat without a job until the same Episcopal Day School she attended as a kindergartener gave her a call. Their fifth-grade math teacher had left, creating an opening for Goings, and there, she remained for the first nine years of her teaching career.
“That experience is what made me the teacher and educator that I am today,” Goings said. “We were a private school, so the headmistress would tell us we had to do more than what families could get for free because people are paying for us. We had to sit down and work collaboratively as a team to make a rich curriculum for these students. That taught me how teamwork was a big part of teaching. You couldn’t teach in isolation and you had to make learning interesting and relevant for your students.”
After her tenure at her first position, Goings took two years off from teaching when her husband, Dr. Douglas Goings, accepted a professor position at Murray State in Kentucky. She stayed busy with various women’s clubs, but she and her husband ultimately decided that if she was going to work she ought to get paid for it, so to the classroom she returned.
After stints in Texas and back in Louisiana, the Goingses moved to Savannah in 1995. All of her teaching time had been spent at schools attached to Episcopal churches, but while seeking a similar situation in Savannah she learned there were seven such churches but no schools. This marked Goings’ first foray into public education as a teacher and soon after entering she decided to obtain an endorsement to work with academically gifted students.
As was and still is the case with many education professionals, Georgia College brought the Goingses to Milledgeville at the start of the new millennium thanks to Douglas’ job. The elementary educator’s first job in the Baldwin County School District came as a third-grade teacher at Midway Elementary. Her second took her to Southside Elementary where she served as gifted facilitator. It was a short stint, but Goings said it’s one she’ll always remember.
“Those were my favorite two years in Baldwin County,” she pointed out. “It was wonderful.”
A few years spent in school administration gave way to the final position Goings would hold working in the education field — instructional specialist. That position in the central office took her back to her days working on her own classroom curriculum, but now she was helping other teachers develop theirs.
“I just absolutely love creating curriculum,” she said in a voice best described as giddy with excitement. “I can’t tell you how many summers I've spent at a co-teacher and friend’s kitchen table writing lesson plans. I’m getting excited just talking about it. There’s nothing like sitting on the floor with everything around you writing lesson plans.”
Goings put her love for creating to good use in a couple of ways that should leave her mark on the local public school system. Through a multitude of good relationships with the community she created the school district’s annual Literacy Fair that celebrates learning in all its various forms. Each year, on one Saturday in January the Milledgeville Mall is packed with families almost like its Christmastime. But instead of buying gifts kids receive free coloring books, reading books, and other materials that they can take home and have fun learning with. Goings’ other creation is the innovative Summer Adventure program, which just finished up its second year. Elementary students come to school over the summer and go on educational journeys that include fun, hands-on activities meant to stimulate their minds in ways regular classroom learning may not. Goings said she has had multiple Summer Adventure teachers tell her they look forward to coming to work every day because teaching in the different environment is fun for them, too. It’s the way Goings wishes things could be during the regular school year, but the state’s intervention takes things in a different direction.
“If we would take away that data that everyone looks at and allow the teachers to practice their craft the way they know the craft needs to be practiced — they are professionals, and good teachers know what’s right for their students,” she said.
She also feels strongly about the use of technology in the classroom, saying personal interaction should always come before sticking a child in front of an electronic learning device. Interactions like one Goings had in her very first year as an educator where she was helping a boy out with his science project on what makes a soufflé rise. She said she took him to the school kitchen multiple times to get that soufflé to rise, and now he is a successful restauranteur and caterer in New Orleans. He lists Goings as one of the teachers that went above and beyond in helping him be successful in the school’s alumni section of its website.
“We can’t let the computer take over because nothing’s going to replace the teacher and the impact that one-on-one with a student can make,” Goings said. “Nothing will replace that in our lifetime. … You can’t tell me that plugging someone into a program is going to benefit that child more than me sitting there working them.”
So what’s next for the recent retiree? Goings and her husband already have several trips scheduled as travel is a passion that they share. She will remain involved in the community, and maybe, just maybe, if a teacher in need picks up the phone and asks for help in creating lesson plans and curriculum, she just might be there.