Director of instruction retires

Throughout her career, Julie Miars Golden says she always knew she would know when it was time to move on.

Her decision to retire from the position of director of instruction for Wapakoneta City Schools after 12 years is one of those times.

“I always knew when I was ready to make the move,” said Miars Golden, who until her last position had changed jobs approximately ever nine years.

She said it was her intent to wrap up her 30-year education career when her children graduated from college.

“I met my timeline,” Miars Golden said as she reflected on her son Drew’s graduation from her alma mater of Bowling Green State University and her daughter, Devon’s upcoming graduation from Georgetown College, in Kentucky.

Devon, who has played basketball for the Tigers throughout college, is submitting applications for law school. Attending as many games during Devon’s senior year as possible has been a priority for Miars Golden and Nelson, her husband of 28 years.

Drew is substitute teaching math and science at middle schools in Allen, Auglaize and Mercer counties and coaching junior high basketball and eighth-grade baseball. He is coaching at Wapakoneta City Schools, but not substitute teaching in the district, from which he graduated.

“He wants to make his own way,” Miars Golden said.

His chosen career path, “makes me smile.”

“I always thought he’d be a coach,” Miars Golden said. “He was always teaching through athletics. He has a wonderful demeanor with children.”

Miars Golden herself started as a vocal music teacher in the Coldwater and St. Marys school districts.

“I’m one of those children who had a classroom at home, who asked the teacher for dittos to take home over the summer, who assisted students in the classroom,” Miars Golden said.

The 51-year-old, who is  originally from Anna, said her district didn’t hire substitutes to fill in when the English, French or band teachers were absent. They asked Miars Golden to take over the classrooms her junior and senior years of high school.

Halfway through her first year teaching, Miars Golden said she knew she wanted to become an administrator.

“That first year teaching, I saw my principal three times and that was including at my mailbox,” Miars Golden said. “That is not what an administrator is supposed to do.”

Her second year of teaching she started graduate school to pursue her goal, going on to complete her graduate and undergraduate work at Bowling Green State University.

She and her family found their way to Wapakoneta when she joined the staff of the middle school as assistant principal. She was later named principal of the middle school before becoming director of instruction for the district in 2001.

“I’m a middle school-high school person,” Miars Golden said of her decision to work with older students in her time as a building administrator. “I wanted kids I could talk to. In working with students, I liked middle schoolers, the conversations we could have, either goofy or serious. I always liked talking to kids that age. Not everyone can.”

When the previous director of instruction retired, she said she thought the position was a good fit for her.

“I had always been curriculum oriented,” Miars Golden said. “One of the things I thought I did well was train teachers and help them grow their talents. It was a natural transition to a position that is all about training staff.”

While her job had many duties — described by Superintendent Keith Horner as a list several pages long — some of her primary responsibilities included grant writing and tracking data.

“Julie had her influence on the district for a long time and in a big way as director of instruction,” Horner said. “She provided a great deal of structure and wasn’t afraid to make a decision. She had great respect from staff members, peers in similar positions, and superintendents for her knowledge base.

“She’s actually made us all better,” he said.

Complimenting Miars Golden on the work she did, Horner said the school’s recent rating for the first time as an excellent district, according to state report cards, is largely due to work she did.

“We do push to get better and she has pushed for a long time,” the superintendent said. “Tons of people are responsible for that excellent rating, but she has a large piece of that. She gets to go out where she belongs — an excellent person leaving an excellent district.”

As a grant writer, Miars Golden was charged with helping the district obtain more than $1 million in federal money and was required to keep up with stipulations and guidelines to keep the district compliant.

With data she tracked trends, testing and substrands and created longitudinal charts to graph data across cohorts and grade levels.

How prospective teachers were recruited, interviewed and hired Miars Golden viewed as one of her biggest duties and deciding who to put into a classroom the “single, most important” decision a school district makes.

“It’s really important to put the best in there every time you have a chance,” said Miars Golden, adding that many of the teachers will stay with the district for 30 or more years.

Upon her retirement, Miars Golden plans to finally audition for the chorus of the Lima Symphony Orchestra, something she never had time to do before. Her only means for keeping up with music through the years has been serving as interim choir director on and off at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, which the family attends, and occasionally filling in as needed with the choir.

 She plans to weed her flower gardens daily and maybe start a Bible study, but most importantly for Miars Golden is not having a schedule.

“I always feel like if you live what you are doing when you do it, you won’t miss it,” Miars Golden said of leaving her position with the district, although she said she will miss the people who were a part of that work.

She hopes to continue to see them out and about in the community as she has former students from St. Marys.

With today being Miars Golden’s last day on the job, her first day of retirement she plans to start with a workout at the YMCA.

“I am very excited to finally have a scheduled exercise routine,” Miars Golden said. “That is something I have not been able to do in 30 years.”

She plans to round out the day with a meeting at noon, followed by cheering on the Wapakoneta Redskins at their basketball game Friday night.

Miars Golden and her husband played sports in high school and their children followed suit. She said they will continue to attend as many games as they can, except for football, which she will listen to on the radio.

“I do not missing sitting outside,” Miars Golden said of those cold fall Friday nights when her son played.

She also plans to continue to serve on the Wapakoneta Family YMCA board.

Her job duties have been divided up among 10 administrators, whom she began training in the fall. As she passed on tasks, spots in her office became clear from the related work also being passed on.

While not many districts Wapakoneta’s size operate without a curriculum director, Horner said dividing up her duties was a financial decision that is expected to continue to be assessed.

“What’s hard to teach is the thinking part of the job,” Miars Golden said. “A lot of history goes with me. You can’t really teach people why things were done the way they were. That’s a loss. I know what goes on in all four buildings. Someone else is going to have to pick up that slack holistically. That’s part of the job people don’t see.”

As she has gone about her work, Miars Golden also has found she has the certification of every teacher in the district memorized.

She is leaving behind a shared online file for district administrators and set up reoccurring appointments for all the district’s administrators on a calendar.

“I will haunt them,” she said smiling.