Retiring educator marvels at success stories

“It’s just been amazing to watch the kids, to know them as middle schoolers and high schoolers, and watch them grow and flower into adults," says Jim Bever. (Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — Jim Bever capped off a 37-year career in education this month by going completely off the grid.

The longtime educator and administrator for Greenfield-Central schools clocked out his last day on June 2, then proceeded to go on a camping trip “to the middle of nowhere” with his wife, Teresa, who teaches math at Eastern Hancock High School.

“In my role it’s not often that one has the opportunity to get completely out of contact, so my wife and I made the choice to get away for a while,” he said this week after returning from his trip. “I’ve worked a pretty full schedule since 1983, so it was a nice change of pace.”

Bever’s role as an administrator over the past several years sometimes had him working 70- to 80-hour weeks, but it’s been a career he has loved.

Bever joined the Greenfield-Central schools his second year out of college, in 1984, when he took on a science teaching position at Maxwell Middle School. He also became Greenfield-Central High School’s first athletic trainer that year.

“The school had never had an athletic trainer, and they were interested in developing a program,” recalled Bever, who earned his teaching and athletic training credentials from Indiana University.

After spending his first year teaching at Southport High School, Bever was thrilled to land a job in Hancock County, where he was raised. He graduated from Eastern Hancock High School in 1979.

Bever held on to the same science teaching job and athletic training post until 1997, when he was promoted to become Maxwell’s first assistant principal, when the school was renovated and doubled the number of students to 500.

Two years later, he was moved to the assistant principal position at Greenfield Middle School, where he became principal one year later.

Bever led the staff and students at Greenfield Middle School until 2010, when the school district switched from a three-tier to a four-tier system, building a new junior high for seventh- and eighth-graders and switching the middle schools to intermediate schools for students in fourth through sixth grades.

Bever was named the principal to lead the new Greenfield Intermediate School, in the same building where he headed Greenfield Middle School.

He stayed in that post until 2017, when he was asked to become director of student services for the school system, the role that would carry him into retirement.

Bever said his role as director of student services was multifaceted, to say the least.

“It really covers all the extra services students need,” said Bever, who oversaw special education, disability education and social/emotional behavior learning programs, as well as programs for homeless students and students involved with the Department of Child Services.

He also oversaw student disciplinary procedures.

“All that combined was a handful,” Bever said with a laugh, but he loved the work.

The most rewarding part of his career in education has been watching generations of kids grow up under his watch, he said.

“It’s just been amazing to watch the kids, to know them as middle schoolers and high schoolers, and watch them grow and flower into adults. It’s just an amazing thing to watch,” said Bever, who has a soft spot for those who tended to struggle in their formative years.

“So often some kids struggle a bit as middle schoolers, then bloom into these incredibly successful adults,” said Bever, which he said shaped his overall approach to teaching.

“It has really led me to tell teachers, ‘Don’t work with the kid you have in front of you, work for the person this kid can become,’” he said.

“Often we’ll have a kiddo that’s a little awkward, who struggles as a 13- or 14-year-old, but if we can be patient and hang in there, and let them grow into themselves, it really pays off,” Bever said.

“I’ve seen these kids become some of the most incredible adults. It’s given me great confidence that some of our kids who might drive their teachers a little crazy, that there’s a lot of hope for them down the road.”

Last weekend, Bever attended a high school graduation party for one such student.

“This was a student who struggled very much in their intermediate school years. The student worked hard, his parents worked hard on his behalf, and he graduated this year. Just to see the young adult that this kiddo has become has been amazing,” Bever said.

At his party, “he looked at me and said, ‘I think about some of the stuff I did when I was in your (school) building, and I have no idea why I did that,’” Bever recalled.

“I said, ‘Look where you are now. It’s possible maybe you needed to do some of those things to become who you are today.’”

Hooked on the gratifying feeling of helping students like him, Bever isn’t straying too far away from his career in education.

A few organizations have recruited him to do consulting work to help schools improve so they can better serve students, which is a role he feels is right up his alley.

Bever also plans to make time for some fun and relaxation, as well. He and his wife plan to use their boat a bit more and spend more time with their two grown kids.

They also plan to reschedule their 30th anniversary trip to Hawaii, which was canceled last year due to the COVID pandemic.

“It will be nice to travel more and enjoy a different pace,” Bever said.

While he wishes him well, Superintendent Harold Olin said Bever will be sorely missed.

“Jim has been an incredible asset to G-C for more than 30 years,” Olin said. “He was a great classroom teacher, athletic trainer, principal and district employee, and has always been an advocate for all students. He has been a fantastic mentor and friend.”

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DOE administrator joins leadership team at Greenfield-Central. Page A5