When one chapter ends, another one begins. Like a good book, there is excitement as you move from chapter to chapter.
On May 27, 2021, Debra Anderson Russaw closed a chapter in her life. That chapter spanned 31 remarkable years. During her 31-year tenure with the Liberty County School System, Russaw has seen many changes - some good and some not so good. She ended her journey with the School System as a District Response to Intervention Coordinator.
"I learned from my grandmother and grandfather to work hard for what you want and never place your life and success in anyone else's hand but God. They taught me that man is a luxury, but God is a necessity.” said Russaw.
A Liberty County native and 1982 graduate of Bradwell Institute, Russaw subsequently attended Georgia Southern College, now known as Georgia Southern University. After working for Central Texas College and the federal government, she returned to Liberty County.
"A very dear and precious friend (Cheryl Peterson), my little sister (Tisha), and niece (Sidra) inspired me to consider a change of career path from business to education. I began this journey at Jordye Bacon Elementary School under the leadership of Ms. Dorothy Cottom. She taught me to be resilient, purposeful, and persistent. After receiving my teaching certification, I became a sixth-grade math teacher at Hinesville Middle School under the leadership of Mr. Ed Elmore,” she said.
Russaw said like Ms. Cottom, Mr. Elmore also taught her to understand that teaching is not a job but a ministry. "It is not just mortar and bricks and books and blackboards, but it is about educating the whole child. Teaching does not start at 7:45 am and end at 3:15 pm. When much is given, much is required, and teaching requires you to step out of self, observe, and create a plan to make sure those entrusted to you receive what they need (academically, mentally, socially, and physically)."
In 1999, Russaw returned to school to achieve a Master's in Middle School Education from Cambridge College in Boston, Massachusetts. "The experience was phenomenal. I learned the value of self-worth, self-determination despite obstacles, and understanding the true nature of a person/student. I returned to Liberty County with a new attitude and drive to move forward, to expect greatness, and to value all stakeholders because collectively, we could and would move mountains.”
Russaw said even though the task was difficult, she was and still is determined to fight hard and work hard to be of service, which means having a service attitude. Later, she received her Education Specialist Degree from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
"Teaching has always been an art. Its complexity and requirements have become more challenging, yet continue to encompass many facets of life. Educating young minds entails providing not only academic learning, but also ways/strategies to become an asset to the community and world through life experiences and lessons,” noted Russaw. “Teachers always have to be ready to use teachable moments to enhance and connect factual events to concepts/content taught in the classroom."
Russaw considers several people to be her influencers. "My grandmother (the late Queenie Golden Anderson) and her wisdom still linger with me. She used to tell us, ‘Feed those who are hungry, clothed those that are naked, and remember only God knows.’ My next influencer would be Cheryl Peterson. She shared her craft with me and ensured I was well prepared to conquer the art of teaching.”
“Another influencer is my daughter, Jerrica Russaw; she is my gift from God. She entered the world with many challenges, but persevered through it all and showed me that no matter what obstacles were upon you, finish the race. Other influencers include my family, friends, peers, co-workers, church family, students, and community. I am truly Liberty Proud!"
As Russaw closes this incredible chapter, she is anticipating the next chapter. "My next journey in life is in the "Still Waiting" moment. I asked God for direction, and I trust he will provide. I would love to travel, spend more time with family and friends, and most of all "LOVE " on me.
Russaw lives in Allenhurst. At an early age, she became a member of St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church, in Hinesville, and is currently a member at First Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Hinesville.