LaCrisia Larkin retirement reception
The community is invited to honor Lacrisia Larkin on her retirement from Gainesville High School.
When: 2–4 p.m. Sunday
Where: Gainesville High School atrium
More info: 770-536-5275
LaCrisia Larkin took her first teaching job at Gainesville High School 33 years ago, and she never left.
The Gainesville High School principal, who will retire this year, began teaching at the school in 1982 after seeing a booth at a job fair.
“I have been thinking about how this all came about, I guess just in the reflecting that comes with this,” she said. “I was a college student at Fort Valley State University and John Davis was one of the assistant principals here. At that time, assistant principals would go out and recruit, and I happened to walk by a table that said Gainesville, Georgia.”
Larkin said she realized she and Davis were both from Brunswick and they knew each other’s families.
“I asked him, ‘Gainesville? Where is Gainesville?’” she said. “My fiancé at the time was going to University of Georgia, so when I asked him, he said it was about 38 miles north of Athens. And it all just worked out.”
Shortly thereafter, she came up for an interview with then-principal Curtis Segars, who died this May.
“It’s amazing and bittersweet, because Mr. Segars hired me,” she said. “And they offered me the job that day.”
Former Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said Larkin’s hire was significant.
“She was one of the first African-American teachers hired during the post-integration years at Gainesville High School, a school steeped in long-standing traditions,” Dyer said. “It was a time when we as a school and community were searching for common ground on which to serve a more diverse group of children.”
Dyer said Larkin provided insights and contributions as a classroom teacher that impacted the school at every level. Larkin was an example of connecting with children of any background or history.
“I reflect on that time as being pivotal in preparing us in later years to successfully serving children from a wide range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds,” Dyer said. “LaCrisia, as a teacher, was a pioneer in leading us through those years.”
Larkin said she always knew she wanted to be a teacher.
“I’m an example of the little ones who loved certain things at a young age,” she said. “A special Christmas gift I remember getting back then was a chalkboard, and I would teach some lessons to my dolls, all lined up. So I knew early.”
Her childhood was full of formative experiences, which shaped her into the instructor she is today.
In the second grade, her family moved to a more rural part of Brunswick, where she was to attend a new school.
“I was actually the first African-American student at this elementary school,” she said. “All of that has helped shape my thinking of how important it is for kids to not only feel comfortable in whatever school they attend, but with the other students and the adults. Because school is a home away from home.”
Years later, Larkin would appear in a supporting role in the film “Conrack,” based on Pat Conroy’s book “The Water is Wide.” The story tells of a young teacher who crossed cultural boundaries to bring education to children living on isolated barrier islands.
Over her 33 years at the high school, Larkin worked as a teacher, director of the Career, Technical and Agricultural Education Department, assistant principal and principal.
She takes her place in school history, Dyer said, as the first female principal of Gainesville High School. She assumed the position in 2012 after former principal Chris Mance was diagnosed with, and eventually died of, cancer.
“During the last week of Mr. Mance’s life, as we talked and planned how to proceed, Chris assured me in his memorable way,” Dyer said. “He said, ‘It will be all right. LaCrisia can handle it. She will take care of it.’”
Larkin said one of the great joys of her career was seeing her former students’ successes. She remembers them by name, and recounts their triumphs as her own.
“I have witnessed so many students, and their families, return to Gainesville High School after graduation and thank her for believing in them and sharing in stories of how Mrs. Larkin never gave up on them,” Dyer said.
School board member Sammy Smith likened Larkin to a mother in her natural element.
“We learn from our studies that the female elephants take charge of their herds with a primary duty of protecting their young,” Smith said. “That’s what Mrs. Larkin has done.”
Larkin said she will miss the day-to-day habits she fell into and loved at the high school. She plans to spend retirement enjoying her grandchildren, traveling with her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha and attending Gainesville High School athletics and extracurricular activities.
“I would always tell my students, you have to find a job you love doing, so you won’t dread going to work every day,” she said. “I was very fortunate in that. I will miss seeing the individuals I work with, but most of all I’ll miss the kids. I always want the students to know, ‘You are each an individual that is important to me.’”