We are very blessed at Strode to welcome two very important ladies to our school!
Mrs. Ruthann Sharrock has been named Strode Station’s new principal. Mrs. Sharrock served as assistant principal under Janet Brown, who retired in June. Welcome, Mrs. Sharrock!
Sharrock ready for first year as Strode Station principal
Atop a filing cabinet in Ruthann Sharrock’s new office is a framed photograph of she and her aunt Jean, smiling at the Greenbrier, a place the pair frequented in the mountains of West Virginia.
The photo serves as a constant reminder of the inspiration Sharrock gleaned over the course of her career as an educator. Her aunt spent her life caring for children as a guidance counselor and served as a major influence and source of support in Sharrock’s choice to become a teacher.
“Besides my parents, she was my biggest cheerleader,” Sharrock said.
Aunt Jean passed away in May.
“She isn’t here to see this,” Sharrock said, sitting behind her new desk.
A 24-year-old nameplate sits on a cabinet to the side; it reads “Mrs. Sharrock.” It was given to her as a gift during her first year on the job, teaching language arts at the former Conkwright Middle School.
Now the nameplate pays tribute to her past and is with her for the year to come in her new role as principal at Strode Station Elementary School.
Sharrock was formerly the assistant principal at Strode. She also worked at George Rogers Clark High School for 16 years and at Conkwright for six years before that. She’s taught math for most of her career, though she also advised the yearbook at GRC and led senior activities.
“I like to be busy,” Sharrock said.
Sharrock even worked on the planning committee for the construction of GRC.
“It was cool to be a part of that whole process and still see the continuation because we saw the big plan of everything, but things had to be put on hold,” she said. “So it’s nice to see the rest of it coming to life.”
Sharrock grew up in the Virginias or more specifically in the Bluefield micropolitan area which spanned across two counties — one in Virginia, one in West Virginia. She attended Bluefield College in Virginia as well as Bluefield State College in West Virginia.
Her wise aunt told her the future of education was in math and science, so she coupled her language arts major with math.
Having always taken on leadership roles in every position she’s worked, Sharrock said her move to the administrative side was a natural progression.
“I have always enjoyed the leadership part of it,” Sharrock said. “Even all the way back to when I was a teacher I would be in charge of different things.”
There were always three careers Sharrock was deciding between: being a missionary, veterinarian or teacher.
“As you can see all three of those are helping, giving professions,” Sharrock said.
Though, out of her neighborhood group, Sharrock always played the leader — whether they played school or camp. Her younger brother also received a fair share of Sharrock’s leadership, she said.
Sharrock said her aunt played a significant part in her final decision to be a teacher, but it took her a bit longer to kick-start her career, pausing shortly for marriage, children and other life events.
But her support system — her friends and family — never faltered.
“I am here today because of a lot of family support,” Sharrock said.
Sharrock said she hopes to inspire others who are afraid they can’t do something because she is proof no matter the challenge, hard work and faith can go a long way.
“Just don’t give up,” she said.
Sharrock is only a few weeks into her role as principal, and she is already facing a few obstacles; the recent rain caused a flood in the Strode’s library, but Sharrock said she’s not worried as she and her staff are hard at work to solve the problem as per usual.
Sharrock said she is excited to begin her first year as principal with a staff she already considers to be family.
“We work as a team,” she said.
Sharrock said she also aims to keep the momentum going in regards to testing scores
“Our test scores are awesome,” she said.
Over her 24 years as an educator, Sharrock said she’s developed and learned how to handle the toughest of challenges thanks to her mentors along the way.
The late Becke Cleaver, a former Conkwright principal, taught Sharrock to pick her battles.
“In middle school, there could be a battle every minute of the day,” Sharrock said. “And as a new teacher, I look back and think of how important it was to know that.”
Sharrock said she also learned a lot from Gordon Parido, a former GRC principal and current Board of Education member.
“I watched his leadership style, and I liked the way he handled people,” Sharrock said. “He listened to us. You always knew you were heard.”
And of course, Janet Brown, Sharrock’s predecessor, taught her everything there is know about working in an elementary school.
Sharrock said she has fond memories from all of her positions. She loved her team at the middle school, how she felt she was making a difference at the high school and how her staff works diligently to care for the students at Strode.
Even so, being an educator comes with challenges.
“The biggest challenge was getting to where I am right now,” Sharrock said. “I had to have other people believe that I could do this particular job. I felt like I’ve had to prove myself and I never wanted to go to another county to have to do that.”
Working alongside Sharrock as assistant principal is Kelly Fithen. Sharrock taught Fithen in the eighth grade, and the pair has come full circle. The two have followed similar paths. Sharrock has been a teacher to Fithen, a colleague, a friend and even a student — she previously has taken clogging lessons from Fithen.
As principal, Sharrock said she hopes to encourage her teachers to build a strong support system and she hopes her students at Strode learn to be resourceful.
“The world we’re preparing them for right now will not be the same world in five years,” she said.
Outside of work — if she exists outside of work, she joked — Sharrock said she enjoys spending time with her family: her husband, three sons, two grandchildren, parents and more. She also enjoys watching sports, reading and crafting.
Sharrock said she’s ready to hit the ground running in the final phase of her career.
“I think for once in my life, I see the end in sight as far as retirement eventually,” she said. “I see this as my final phase, my final stop. I never thought I’d be an elementary school principal.”
But she is. Sharrock said she only wishes her aunt was here to see it come to fruition. But her aunt still inspires her every day.
“She was an amazing woman…” Sharrock said. “I took a piece of her with me as a reminder.
Serving as assistant principal at Strode Station is Mrs. Kelly Fithen. Kelly was named our new assistant principal after working as and English and Math teacher at GRC. Welcome, Mrs. Fithen!
Clark native is new Strode Station assistant principal
A new job in a new school, working with new grade levels — it may seem daunting, but Kelly Fithen said she is excited about the challenge ahead.
Strode Station Elementary School welcomed K
elly Fithen as its new assistant principal earlier this month.
Fithen previously worked in the math department at George Rogers Clark High School.
When the assistant principal job opened, Fithen said it was time to make her move.
“I’ve just kind of been waiting for the right time to switch and move into an administration job,” Fithen said.
Fithen, a Clark County native, attended Eastern Kentucky University for her bachelor’s, master’s and Rank I in instructional supervision. She is certified to teach English for fifth through ninth grade and math for fifht to 12th grade.
After college, Fithen returned home to Winchester, teaching a year at Conkwright Middle School before switching to GRC.
During her time teaching, she returned to school to complete her principal’s certification.
Overall, Fithen has now clocked 15 years as an educator.
However, elementary school is new territory, Fithen said.
“I’m excited because, at this point, I will have worked in all grade levels,” she said.
This position will also be Fithen’s first experience in administration, though she has always been a leader throughout her career.
But, it isn’t entirely foreign. Fithen is accustomed to working with elementary-age students as she teaches at and co-owns Studio One, a premier dance studio in Winchester.
“I’m used to being around young kids,” she said. “I have young kids myself. I’m also around tons of young kids at the studio, so I’m already used to that age group. I know it will be a different transition in this school and the school atmosphere, but I’m excited about it.”
As assistant principal, Fithen will be hands-on on all levels whether it be working directly with teachers, monitoring students or helping the principal. It’s a team effort, she said.
As a young child, Fithen enjoyed “playing school,” and she always wanted to be the teacher.
“I had a classroom with the chalkboard and worksheets and papers that I would always give to my pretend students,” she said.
Her play eventually manifested into concrete goals, and it became a matter of choosing schools, getting the certifications and degrees, she said.
“It’s never really been a question to me,” she said.
Fithen said she especially enjoys watching children grow and learn.
“It’s fulfilling to be around kids. No matter what the age, whether it be elementary, middle and high school, they all have so much to offer,” she said. “They all have just such unique personalities, and just getting to talk with them. I enjoy spending time with them and watching them transition themselves from one step to the next.”
Fithen said she also enjoys that each day is different, but that can also come with challenges.
“It’s exciting because it’s not the same thing day after day,” Fithen said. “But sometimes it’s hard to plan and know exactly your plan of action when you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
As the school year quickly approaches, Fithen said she already has some goals in mind. First and foremost, she needs to get into the building, meet the staff and get accustomed to the atmosphere.
“I think my first year will be a huge learning experience,” she said.
Thankfully, she’s not afraid to ask questions, Fithen said.
“My goal is to do everything that I can in the best way I can to help the teachers and to help everyone,” she said.
Fithen said she hopes to exhibit the qualities of a good leader, primarily working to be an effective communicator.
Fithen will be working alongside Ruthann Sharrock, the incoming principal at Strode. Fithen said she and Sharrock worked together in the past and the pair has even followed similar paths. Throughout her time working at the various levels, Fithen said she learned so much from her experience she will carry on with her in her new position.
Of course, she will never forget her students, she said.
“The last couple years when I’ve been working with seniors, I’ve had some of them, tell me ‘thank you’ in person,” Fithen said. “I’ve had a lot of them write me a card or some note saying ‘thank you.’ I’ve had some send me an email thanking me for all that I’ve done to help them get where they are.
“So that’s huge and phenomenal and just an honor to be able to help those students, all the students, get where they are. But it’s wonderful to reflect and have those mementos to look back on and know the students took time and wanted to say thank you in return.”
Fithen said she wants people to see she’s easy to communicate with, always willing to help, she’s a team player and she continually has the students’ best interests in mind.
“I am here for the students, and I want to do everything I can to make everything better and to continue making Strode a great place to be,” she said.
Fithen said she hopes to encourage students to do the best they can and to follow their dreams, and she hopes to show her staff how to be open, ready and willing to learn and work as a team.
Education was what she was born to do, Fithen said.
She can’t imagine doing anything else.
“It helped me to become who I am today,” she said. “You learn a lot from all the people that you’re around, whether it be students or staff. I think every interaction, every moment all kind of help build who you are.”
As for the future, Fithen said she doesn’t have a set plan. Instead, she’s focused on the here and the now, enjoying the new beginning in what is already a long, fulfilling career.
“It’s exciting,” Fithen said. “It’s a new chapter.”