The Gainesville mayor’s office proclaimed Tuesday "Jill Goforth Day" in honor of the New Holland Core Knowledge Academy principal who is retiring from a nearly 30-year career in education.
Children at New Holland greeted Goforth on Tuesday morning with song and dance. The teachers and staff of the school celebrated her commitment to educating kids and supporting educators by giving her gifts and sharing memories at a schoolwide assembly.
Janice Young, New Holland’s assistant principal, helped to organize the day’s festivities that also included a Georgia Bulldog-themed tailgate lunch and an afternoon reception at the Elk’s Club.
She said Goforth is a shining example of a successful and caring educator who has touched the lives of countless teachers, staff and students.
Young said Goforth has been an important individual to the Gainesville school system.
"I think it’s because she’s a product of this system and community," Young said. "She grew up here and was a student here. She brings forward a spirit of caring and love. She brings forward a spirit of professionalism. She really has her hands in the mix."
Gainesville schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer told the assembly of children Tuesday about her first day of school at Enota Elementary. She recalled she was nervous that she wouldn’t have any friends.
Dyer said it was Goforth, her fellow student, who extended kindness and friendship to her that first day. She said Goforth’s kind spirit remains unchanged, and encouraged New Holland students to carry on Goforth’s legacy of kindness at the elementary school.
In an acrostic poem spelling out her name, New Holland second-graders described Goforth as a "generous, gorgeous graceful genius" and said "‘H’ is for your happy face that helped New Holland."
Fifth-graders also published a special-edition Goforth Gazette chronicling Goforth’s career. The newspaper recounted how Goforth enjoyed school so much as a kid that when she was sick, she would keep it a secret from her mom so she could still go to school.
Goforth began teaching at Oakwood Elementary School in 1975 and served as a first-grade teacher there for seven years. After sending her own children off to kindergarten, Goforth began teaching first grade at Enota Elementary School in 1987.
After her five-year stint at Enota, she helped open Centennial Elementary School as a teacher there for three years before returning to Enota. She then helped to open New Holland Core Knowledge Academy in 2003 as an assistant principal and was integral in developing the school as a Core Knowledge Academy. In January 2007, Goforth was promoted to principal.
Goforth said she was very surprised to arrive to school Tuesday to find everyone decked out in red and black to honor her love of the Georgia Bulldogs. Goforth’s 29-year-old daughter, who lives in Texas, also surprised Goforth at the assembly.
"I’m absolutely overwhelmed," Goforth said. "I appreciate it so much. I’m going to miss them terribly."
Bertha Shields, a New Holland gifted and English for Speakers of Other Languages teacher and longtime co-worker of Goforth’s, said Goforth has been a significant person in her life and deserves at least one day to honor her life’s work.
"She was very influential in getting me started and learning the ropes, so I will always be grateful to her for that," Shields said. "I think the best is yet to come for her because she’s not one to sit down."
Goforth said after retiring at the end of this school year she plans to continue work as a consultant for the Core Knowledge Foundation.