BY JACLYN ROSE –
As the youngest daughter of a Mechanical Engineer who designs heavy equipment, Paulette Sherrer moved around often as a child. “I was born in Waterloo, Iowa, and graduated from Corinth, Mississippi, but there were many schools in between. My mom always made it an adventure. We’d come home from school and there would be boxes out and she’d say, ‘guess where we are moving now,’” said Sherrer.
After graduation Sherrer enrolled in college at Ole Miss, where she was all set to go until her parents decided to move back to Kansas. While driving through Arkansas on their way to see the new house in Kansas, her family stopped in Siloam Springs. They drove on the campus of John Brown University where her father became impressed with the new Engineering Building on Campus. Next thing they knew, Sherrer was enrolled. “I knew no one and had never even been to Arkansas before but it was a God thing. I met Cliff, who was attending on a tennis scholarship, the first week of school,” explained Sherrer.
After dating all through college, Sherrer married Cliff, a Polk County native, the same day she graduated college. “Because my family lived so far away they said they could either come for my graduation or my wedding, I told them, no, they could come for both,” said Sherrer with a grin. “I graduated at 10 am and got married at 7 pm.”
The Sherrers have been married for 24 years and have three children: Hilary, Madison, and Zane. “I think you should marry your best friend, someone who wants to be with you through the ups and downs. Cliff and I are both in education, we live the same day and talk about it every evening, there is no disconnect,” explained Sherrer.
After college graduation Cliff was offered a job at Mena Public Schools, by then Superintendent Lonnie Barron. “We planned to move to Mena for two to three years max. I was a big city girl and though we visited Mena often while in college, I couldn’t imagine not living in a city. I thought Mena was precious but I grew up attending the opera and theater,” said Sherrer. The day of back to school professional development came around and Sherrer still did not have a job in Polk County. Through the course of that day she was offered a job as a 6th grade science teacher at Mena Middle School and a job as a 1st grade teacher at Louise Durham. With a passion for elementary education, Sherrer chose 1st grade, where she continued to teach for the next nine years. She then spent ten years at Holly Harshman Elementary as a 3rd grade teacher before spending two years as the district literacy coach. She finally settled into her current job as Principal of Holly Harshman Elementary. This year she began her 4th year as Principal, and her 25th in education, all for Mena Public Schools.
A genuinely happy and bubbly person, Sherrer longs to create an environment for her teachers and her students that shows them that it is an option to be positive and passionate about what you do. “I had a wonderful upbringing and was always supported and so many of the children do not have that but I feel like if I can create a place they want to get up and come to every day, then I can teach them anything. I tell my students and staff I love them every day, because every one needs to hear that,” Sherrer said.
“I had the opinion the size of the town dictated its offerings and talents. All I knew was the big city but our community is a hidden talent. Three years into our careers, Cliff was given the opportunity to move up to a bigger school but I couldn’t imagine leaving. Because I moved so much, I can make friends with anyone and have never met a stranger. But why not put down roots and let my children know what it is like to go to school with someone from kindergarten through graduation and grow up in a place where everyone knows them by name? You don’t get that from the big city. We lost our home in the 2009 tornado and the next morning our whole yard was covered in people there to help. The community really stepped up and my kids have benefited from that ‘give back and help somebody’ mentality. They learned that from our town helping us,” explained Sherrer.