It was a simple conversation Denzil Adams had with his father Merit when he was a young man that led to a 54-year career with Clay Community Schools.
"After the (Korean) war, the Kiwanis Club was offering a four-year scholarship. I went to State High, the laboratory school in Terre Haute where students did their student teaching," Adams said. "There was a position available for an elementary school teacher, and I told my father I wish it was something more worthwhile because I hadn't liked elementary school. He said to me, 'Maybe you could make it different.'"
From that moment, Adams decided that's exactly what he wanted to do.
In 1955, Adams became an elementary teacher at Meridian Elementary School, and taught there for two years.
The next year, Adams transferred to Pinckley Street Elementary School before starting East Side Elementary and presiding as the principal there for 34 years.
"When I was in college, I wrote a paper about what I'd do for democracy," Adams said. "My teacher said it was an excellent paper, but that I should never do that in an elementary school, but that's exactly what I did."
Every year after that, Principal Adams taught his students about social studies, government and the political process of elections by dividing the classes up into Democrats and Republicans or Federalists and the United Party and had them conduct school elections for office, mocking the process of federal and state elections.
The students campaigned, debated, cast secret ballots, served as announcers and political council members.
"I've had former students like Mike McCullough come up to me and say, 'You got me started in this,'" Adams said. "Jim Deal said his wife didn't even vote for him for president when he ran in grade school, and they all say their career ideas were sparked during those school elections."
Another experience Adams said made an impression on his career was deciding to teach summer school.
"I didn't want to teach summer school at first," Adams said. "The kids that are in summer school are the ones who usually hate school. I decided to anyway, and modeled part of it after a Vacation Bible School format."
Adams would begin the summer school day with an inspirational opening exercise.
"I went with the theme 'I can. I know I can,'" Adams said. "We had puppet dramas over what we had learned the day before, and a Helen Keller drama where the students learned about a woman who used what she had to succeed, even though what she had was limited."
Adams added he has taken many valueable lessons away from his education years.
"It's not what you do that counts. It's how you motivate someone else," Adams said. "I can't encourage someone by telling you what you do wrong, but if I can make a suggestion as to what you could improve on and tell you what you did right, that may encourage someone."
Adams retired from his position as principal in 1992, with 40 years of service on his record, three of which were credited to him for military service as a radio mechanic during the Korean War.
He took a two-year break before being hired as a contracted services provider, video taping the CCS school board meetings every second Thursday of each month.
Adams has been taping the meetings for 17 years, in addition to his previous service with CCS.
"They've done so much for me, I wanted to be able to give something back," Adams said. "The only thing I wish I would have done differently is that I would have worked harder on building personal relationships and encouraging others."
He said education is moving so much toward evaluations and test scores, but what is needed is focus on qualitative educational experiences.
During the CCS board meeting Thursday evening, board President Rob Miller said, "I'd like to thank Adams for his service to the corporation for all these years. He will be missed."