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Longtime Maurice Bowling Middle School Principal Jo Ella Wallace was honored with a key to the city of Owenton during a retirement ceremony held Sunday.
But it was The Goose that surprised her most.
Former University of Kentucky basketball player Jack “Goose” Givens attended the ceremony and although it was the first time the two had met, Givens said he could see all of the qualities of a great player in Wallace.
“I was told I was her favorite player of all time,” Givens said. “It’s very special to hear that and I think she would’ve made a great player at UK.”
Givens said he often speaks to kids about the qualities of being successful – including motivation, attitude, goal setting and commitment.
“I see all of those in (Wallace),” Givens said. “She’s an example for all of us to follow.”
Along with Givens, Owen County Judge-executive Carolyn Keith read a proclamation honoring Wallace.
Owenton Mayor Doug West presented Wallace with a key to the city of Owenton and Wallace’s fellow educators, including Owen County School Superintendent Rob Stafford, Owen County School District Director of Pupil Personnel Charlotte Elkins and former teachers Dave Stowe and former Owen County School District Superintendent Mike Ramsey each shared their fond memories of Wallace throughout the years.
“(Wallace) has had a tremendous impact on an entire generation of educators,” Stafford said. “Many who started under her are now working at the state level or as administrators. She gave them their first chance to perform as an educator.”
Wallace began her career in the Owen County School District in 1970 when she was hired on as Owen County High’s health and physical education teacher.
During her time at OCHS, Wallace also started the girls’ basketball program, served as golf coach, was involved in cheerleading and served as athletic director and assistant principal.
She became principal at MBMS when the school was opened in the winter of 1985 and spent the last 27 years of her career there.
Elkins said Wallace had not only been with her every step of the way as an educator, but as a friend – explaining to her how to sign her first lease and being their for her when her mother passed away.
“No matter what, Ms. Wallace will always have your back,” Elkins said.
A tearful Wallace said if anyone saw a crazy lady in disguise roaming around MBMS on the first day of school Wednesday, it would probably be her.
“I don’t know what I’ll do Wednesday,” Wallace said. “These kids who are in sixth grade and all the way up to 12th grade, they’ll always be my kids. And I’ll always be here to support them.”