Abbie Freeman is starting her 20th year in education, and Vestavia Hills Elementary Liberty Park is starting its 20th year as a school. Freeman’s career has led her everywhere from Talladega County, Alabama, to the Florida Keys while Liberty Park was growing from a tiny population in a newly developed community to this year’s 610 students, as you can see in the faculty group pictures in the school office from over the years. Now that their journeys are converging with Freeman starting her first year as principal and second year as an administrator at the school, we chatted with her about where she’s come from and where the school is heading.
How did you get into education?
My major was originally pre-med and I was thinking pediatrics, but my parents were educators and I realized I was led into education. I started teaching fifth and fourth grade in Talladega County in a rural school that was grades 4-12. Then I was a reading coach and taught seniors who were having trouble passing the grad exam. Eventually I got my master’s in instructional leadership and became National Board Certified in English language arts, and I became their assistant principal.
How did you get from Talladega to Liberty Park?
After 12 years in Talladega County, I became an assistant principal and later a principal at Hall-Kent Elementary in Homewood. Then my husband had an opportunity in the Florida Keys, and I got a principal job down there in the rural upper Keys. My husband loved the water, but I missed home. I applied for assistant principal at Liberty Park and was so excited for my family to come back.
You have been in a lot of different schools. In light of that, what makes Liberty Park unique?
This is a very high achieving school. You are rarely in a school that has received a 100 percent on any exam, and this school has. There’s amazing community and parent support. If you dream it, you can make it happen. You don’t get that everywhere to put what you think will be powerful for children in place. It’s “learning without limits.”
What you are you looking forward to this school year?
In Talladega I also got to do innovative instructional design in classrooms of all ages. Once students discovered what their gifts were, others would want to be in a group with a student who maybe didn’t feel as wanted or needed before. With our Leader in Me process at Liberty Park, we will focus on students’ individual learning goals and in their passions for their own gifts and being able to know what those gifts are at a young age and being able to use them. We’re working on student leadership and shared leadership and looking at what our students at Liberty Park need from their individual perspectives with a high percentage of students who are gifted.
What’s something people might not know about you?
I love to cook with Hallmark on the TV. My daughters really love my Chicken Wontons. My oldest daughter thinks French Macarons don’t get any better than the ones I make. I also like to make my grandmother’s sugar cookie recipe.