Kasey Woodlee, a Grundy County native, is principal at Swiss Memorial Elementary School. She loves the children that come through the school doors and is passionate about education.
Kasey grew up in Gruetli-Laager.
“My father, Leon Woodlee, and mother, Debbie Woodlee, are the glue behind our family. I am so fortunate to have those two as my guidance throughout my life then and now. I also would like to recognize my Nanny Louise who has been so good to me. I am very proud of my siblings. I am the oldest, with Toby being the middle child. He works at AEDC and is married to my wonderful sister-in-law, Brittany, and they have blessed me with two handsome nephews, Knoxx and Neyland. Kayla is the youngest and is a phenomenal teacher at North Elementary.
“I went to Swiss Memorial Elementary. The positive culture of the entire school stands out to me. I had the best of friends that I am still friends with to this day. Outstanding teachers that inspired me to be who I am today were Drema Reed, Diana Howard, Greta Carrick, Carla Bolin, Sadie Smartt and John Rogers.
“I remember fondly getting my first paddling from Mrs. Reed after I chased a boy out the door into the parking lot to give him a kiss. After getting me back inside she scolded me real good not necessarily for running out into the parking lot, but because I now had all kinds of germs because I did catch that boy and laid one right on him. I also pushed a boy off the monkey bars on purpose, because he would not be my boyfriend. I also forged my mother’s name so I could be in the Fall Festival.
“I played basketball from second grade on up to the eighth grade in the gym that is now named after my father. I graduated in the top 10 percent of my class.”
Kasey attended Grundy County High School and was a part of the first graduating class at the new high school.
“It was a great experience getting to attend the old high school and then the new. I made many friends and continued to have my Swiss friends as well. I recall Wanda Sanders English class where she taught me that she had eyes everywhere. As soon as I just knew she wasn’t looking at me, I would pass a note and within a second she had it in her hands! She also taught me that she would catch me cheating and would tell my father. That is the last test I have cheated on!
“Karen Dickerson’s class was so fun and she was and still is so cute! Samantha Stevens was a hard-nosed math teacher that made me like math. I also looked up to her knowing she played ball and excelled in both academics and sports.
“Lucky Knott was my favorite teacher and class at GCHS with radio broadcasting class. Ricky Richards was my best friend and my freshman year I had him for three of six classes.
“I also played basketball all four years, starting every year for Coach Richards. The All-District and All-Region trophies don’t mean a thing compared to that big gold ball that James “Duper” Ladd held up at MTSU. That was such a fun experience and it seemed the whole town was at Murphy Center that night as we won the first state championship in Grundy County history.
“I signed a four year Division 1 scholarship with South Alabama. I was nominated class secretary all four years by my peers and voted Most Athletic my senior year and won the Sportsmanship Award.
“After graduating, I started out at South Alabama on a basketball scholarship and I quickly realized my parents were cool. I wanted to be back home! I contacted my AAU Basketball coach and he talked with the coach at Cleveland State Community College. I left South Alabama and tried out and made the team. I started both years at point guard. We were ranked number 18 in the Junior College ranks and I made lifelong friends while there. We still get together each year for reunions.
“I graduated with an Associates Degree in Massage Therapy and Early Childhood Education. I then signed a basketball scholarship right up the road at Lee University. I played a semester there and while flying to Texas for a tournament blew my eardrum out on an airplane. It then hit me when my dad stressed that they called it a ‘student athlete’ with the student coming first for a reason.
“I transferred to Tennessee Tech to just attend school. While in Cookeville, I received a Bachelor’s of Science in Physical Education, Bachelor’s of Science in Personal Training, and a Master’s of Education in Physical Education. I later went back and received my Educational Specialist Degree in Instructional Leadership. I am currently working on my Doctorate Degree in Curriculum and Instruction.
“While at Tennessee Tech, our intramural basketball team won the state and got to go to Disney World where we won the National Championship. We were on ESPN and in the ESPN Magazine.”
Kasey began working during high school.
“While in high school, I worked at the Piggly Wiggly. Before I went off to college, I worked at the BP Town Market. While in college, I worked at Walmart, Taco Bell for honestly 3 hours, as a server at Golden Corral, and a bartender at a cool submarine place in the Bradley Square Mall. (My parents still do not know about that last one, so hopefully they will be okay now knowing).
Coach Ricky Richards asked me to help him coach, so I would drive in from Cookeville to practices and to games. I was very fortunate to get the opportunity to come back to my home school at Swiss Memorial and teach Physical Education. I also taught Physical Education at Palmer and North Elementary where I have the fondest memories of my students. I coached the Swiss Lady Wildcats for a couple of years while still assisting at GCHS.
“I became the head coach at GCHS for four years. After a game I was approached by the Director and he stated he knew I was working on my principal license asked me if I had any ambition of being a principal. With a resounding no, he told me to just think about it. I also am a sales rep with ItWorks Global.
“I am currently the principal at Swiss Memorial where my education all started. I have been there for six years. All of those teachers mentioned above is what got my heart going into wanting other kids to feel how I did. They made me think I could touch the moon.
“I also would ride to high school with Janet Layne, my cousin and principal at MES, where she would give me the neatest learning strategies. When I was little, I wanted to be a bus driver just like my Nanny. After school, I would make a mad dash for that bus and be blowing that horn and those doors were the neatest things – open and shut open and shut! One day I learned where the gears were and I about created a drive through in my Nanny’s house. My Papa Hill said he would patch it up and for me to get my tail in the house and not to tell my Nanny. I then decided I better change my ambition.
“I then would go to my Nanny’s house after school and line up my wrestlers…I did not play with dolls…and I bet Hulk Hogan got tired of hearing me ‘teach’ him. I recall getting a chalkboard for one of my birthdays and you already know I was in there longer now teaching ‘Jake the Snake’. Then, the dry erase boards came out! My heart still smiles knowing the excitement that was. On a sadder note, I also had an experience when I was in sixth grade where a fellow classmate of mine got picked on to the point where he committed suicide. That inspired me that I wanted to make kids feel good about themselves.
Her favorite aspect of her job is the children.
“Absolutely those kids! They are great. I feel I specialize in my ability to connect with students. Those kids know they can come to me for anything they need to tell me. I totally know that students do not care one bit how much I know…adults do that…but they do care about how much I care. Gaining trust with students is one of the first steps to helping them to realize their potential. All kids can learn! They might be at different places, but they will learn.
“When those students that I had come back on ‘Senior Layout Day’, or just as Coy Gibbs calls it ‘Any Grade Lay Out Day’, just to talk with me makes my day! I believe you could ask our students if they enjoy school and a majority of them love school.
“I cannot leave my staff out as the second favorite thing about my job. They work so hard at what they do and deserve so much more praise from me. Our bus drivers make sure the students get to and from school safely, our cooks make sure the students are served hot meals, our nurse is top notch starting a new garden club, our custodians make sure our rooms and building are clean for a healthy environment, our teacher assistants are excellent at what they do, our secretaries are so patient and I do not know how they handle it, our maintenance men care for the lawn and building, and our teachers care about the students.
“Our staff is another family to me and I love them dearly. I feel that I specialize in developing a trusting relationship with them and I will not ask them to do something that I would not do myself. It will not hurt me one bit to mop up spilled milk, clean a toilet, take a child’s temp, answer a phone, drive a bus (oh, we better not try that again), or go in a classroom and teach. We may not be at the top of the achievement ranks on TCAP, but we are growing each and every year.
“Two of the things we do have going on that is very positive is our PawBuck program and H.U.G. program. The Pawbucks reward students for being ready, respectful, and responsible. Each staff member has ‘fake’ dollars and give to students when seeing them display any of these character traits. Students are rewarded the highest amount for perfect attendance, then for making gains, and honor roll\ principal list. Students then can cash their dollars in and learn life ‘store’ skills by attending the school store. If you would like to know more about our PawBuck program and how you can help please contact me at school 779-3129.
“The second program is our H.U.G. Program. This stands for Hello, Update, Goodbye. We have students that do not know where they will sleep at night or if they will have food at home when they get there. A staff member is a mentor to these students throughout the school year and most importantly throughout their life. If you would like to become a member of our H.U.G. program, we would love to have your involvement in this.
Kasey is actively involved in the community.
“We provide something for all of the elementary students in the county each month from movie nights, dances, TCAP game nights, computer night, and more. We also have Grandparents Day, Christmas Programs, Father/Daughter Dances, and Son/Mother Game Night. We encourage the community to come and read to our children as much as possible.
“I am involved in the Gruetli-Laager Athletic Association. We have a beautiful park that gives our children a safe place to play and thrive. We also participate in Relay for Life. I attend as many sporting events as time permits. I coach Jr. Pro Basketball. We joined with Exceptional Enterprise and give them gifts and like to go to the Haven of Rest and sing to the residents. We joined together with the Gruetli-Laager Fire Department to deliver gifts to our students during Christmas time. We also donate to St. Jude Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House.
Kasey has one son.
“I have the best little boy in the whole entire universe. He is by far the best thing that has ever happened to me. His name is Timothy Jaleal Starkey. He just turned six years old and is into so many things. He plays T-ball at Gruetli-Laager and we just got back from the All-Stars. He also plays Jr. Pro Basketball where I was his coach. He wants to play football, but I keep stretching out the age at when he can start.
“Just today, we shot basketball in the gym, then we bowled, we played dodge ball, then I pitched to him. We got home and he hit golf balls, we played kickball, came into the house and threw the football and he shot some more hoops. Whew! I am tired again, but I believe that toys are not what helps kids have fun. I believe in being a parent that gets down in the floor and plays with him.
“He currently has three girlfriends that are in the upcoming eighth grade class. If they were not sweet kids, I would pass them on to ninth so he could not see them every day. I did not know kids could start liking someone in Kindergarten, but look back up at my elementary school experience—I guess he gets it honest.
“In my free time, I like to go to the gym and work out. I love watching Days of Our Lives, Married with Children, The Voice, The Bachelor/Bachelorette, watching the Yankees and college football…Go Big Orange!
“I love to do anything that involves being with Jaleal. Swinging on swings, drinking our favorite milkshakes, and more.
“I eat a lot. I love Krispy Kreme donuts especially powdered blueberry ones and drink peanut power strawberry smoothies from Smoothie King, The Cake Lady’s cakes, and I absolutely love Brown’s Dairy Bar peanut butter milkshakes. When it is Teacher Appreciation Week, you all remember these things!
Several things may surprise you about Kasey.
“I am beyond terrified of cats and I cannot swim at all! The lead singer for Creed was in my psychology class and sit right by me when he came to class. And, cows are my favorite animals.”
Kasey says she loves Grundy County and how people come together in times of need.
“There are not many towns that when you go to your neighbor’s house to borrow sugar that you get a cake the next day. When someone passes away, about the whole town will be at the funeral home to comfort people in times of need.
“I really like the way that teachers take time out of all of the new things to still know their kids.”