Lisa Cripps relaxes in her rocking chair, one of six sitting across a lengthy porch along the front of her house. She sips a cup of coffee and takes in the view of the 200-acre farm in Liberty that belonged to the grandfather of her husband of 40 years, Jerald Cripps. It’s an ideal way to spend her day now that the DeKalb County Schools Supervisor of Instruction has said good-bye after 36 years in education.
“I’m pretty excited about retirement,” Cripps told WJLE in a recent interview.
Even though she’s stepping down from her first career, Cripps won’t be kicking back in that rocker too much. She will be working out of the county complex as the Drug Prevention Coalition Coordinator for DeKalb County.
“I’ve already been job shadowing the current coordinator just a little bit and really feel I have circled back to my love of science and drug education I taught many years ago,” says Cripps.
“I think drug prevention is a mission in the state of Tennessee,” says Cripps, who has felt called over the years to be involved in Christian mission work. “I think it’s starting to get a lot of attention from the higher up political people, so I hope to help in their efforts to battle this problem".
Besides her new position, Cripps will stay busy working on the farm.
“I do enjoy farming. A lot of people don’t know that about me. We raise Charolais cattle on two farms. What I’ve been doing the last week—bush hogging, fencing, and raking hay when the weather permits,” she adds.
Most importantly for this mother and grandmother is devoting more time to her family.
“I have six grandchildren that I love dearly and plan to spend a lot of time with them, as well as, the rest of our large family. The Frazier family has been very blessed over the years”.
Cripps’ children are Matt, a supervisor for UPS, (wife Melody), Jordan (wife Nicole), a Tool and Die maker, and Justin (wife Tiffany), a pharmacist who works in Murfreesboro and McMinnville hospitals.
Her oldest grandson, Christian, started in PreK at DWS this past school year.
“That’s where I started teaching so it’s pretty special to have him at DWS. [The principal] Mrs. Sabrina Farler has already asked me to be one of the school's volunteers, so I will be volunteering in the schools when I can.”
She also hopes to do more traveling. She and her husband have visited a lot of places including Brazil on a missionary trip. They recently went on a cruise to Alaska to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary and her retirement.
Her Career in Education
With both parents as educators, it probably seemed destiny for Cripps to go into education. Her father, Woodrow Frazier, was the first principal at DeKalb West School, and her mother, Louise who will be 100-years-old in July, started the first elementary library at Smithville Elementary School.
Cripps graduated D.C.H.S. in 1976 and immediately went to her parents’ alma mater, Middle Tennessee State University. At first she set her sights on psychology, but it wasn’t long before she switched majors to education. After earning her Bachelor’s degree, she served a short stint substitute teaching until she was hired in 1980 to teach reading and math in the upper grades at DeKalb West.
“When I first started teaching, Jean Hayes was the principal, and I did a little math teaching,” Cripps recalls. “I found out pretty quickly I did not have the love of math that some of my siblings have, my sister's Judy Kimbrell, retired Safety Coordinator, Peggy Thomas, Career Tech teacher, Kathy Hendrix was a math teacher at the high school before she became principal at DCHS, Deborah Fuson, retired accountant, my late brothers, John Frazier, was a physicist, who got the experiments ready to go up in the space shuttle, and Ronnie, who worked in Automotive Industry" .
Fortunately, she later moved to teaching science.
“I’m glad that science is what I fell in love with and got the opportunity to teach, because it really is in everything that surrounds and affects all living things".
During her tenure at DWS, she included Boating Safety and Hunter Safety in her curriculum at the request of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. In fact, once she received Teacher of the Year for Hunter’s Safety.
While working fulltime and raising her three children, Cripps studied for her Master’s degree at MTSU at night. After she finished her studies in administration in the middle of 1995 Cripps was called upon to transfer to Smithville Elementary as Assistant Principal.
“I had always worked with older children, but really grew to love those little children,” Cripps fondly remembers. “It was the only school in our system that wasn’t accredited, so I was told right up front by Mr. Ernest Ray (Superintendent of Schools at the time), we need to get this school accredited. It also was maxed out—850 students—. As a matter of fact, my office was the same broom closet Anita Puckett’s is still in today.”
“We started in and got a team together. Jane Groom was my co-chair. We had a team that worked really hard, and we got accredited that next year. That was a great accomplishment there. We also did some facelifts to that school, got some asbestos out and did some things there that really needed to be done.”
After five and a half years at SES, the assistant principal jobs were eliminated and Cripps was transferred to teaching at Northside Elementary School.
“In my life I have never entered a job that I didn’t feel like God had opened a door for me to enter,” Cripps explains. “I never did feel like that NSE was right fit for me and really was prayerful during that time, had a team praying with me. I never unpacked anything. All my friends would come by and they would say, Lisa, we’ll help you unpack. I said, ‘Don’t touch a thing! I do not feel a calling for here’.”
With her items still in boxes, Cripps got the call to teach science at DeKalb Middle School when Tom Hill moved to the computer lab.
“I was there right at ten years at DeKalb Middle School and loved the age group and subject assignments. That was really a family atmosphere, and I taught with Pat Barnes, Gail Kirksey, Vicky Terrell, Lori Hendrix, Tonya Sullivan, and Tena Davidson, I could name on. Just so many awesome people there and I enjoyed my time teaching science and reading.”
While at DMS, Cripps was named Teacher of the Year in 2008 for the county. A year later, she became the first and only teacher so far to win that prestigious honor at the regional level.
But it’s not necessarily the awards that mean the most to the veteran educator.
“If I had to look back at some of the big events of my life I’d have to say I have really enjoyed working in my church, Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church. I enjoy serving there alongside my husband Jerald, and the other would be working with all the wonderful children over the years. It has been a joy to witness all their success after graduating."
In 2011, she heard about an opening for a supervisor’s position at the central office.
“I applied and served in as supervisor for the last six years. I will tell you, in all my years in education, administration is the hardest job you’re going to be in. It’s certainly the most stressful and you wear many job hats. ”
“I knew the first week I was on the job why God had placed me there. I am thankful for the overall knowledge of how a school system functions. You know the old saying, the grass is greener on the other side, until you have to start mowing it. That rings out very true for those in administration."
“I have learned a lot about people over the years. I’m thankful for my time there at Central Office and will forever remember my lasting friendships there".
After six years in that position and more than 3 decades total in education, the beloved educator is moving on with the next chapter of her life.
“I have enjoyed my years in education and look forward to whatever God opens the door for me to do in the future. I believe the key for any successful system is to work as a team and clearly communicate. It will be exciting to watch the progress our school system makes in the future, “Cripps said.