One of the most powerful people in the state surprised the crowd of freshly hired elementary teachers with a loud, proud, "War Eagle!" Gov. Kay Ivey opened her tour of Auburn, the second stop on her "Listen, Learn, Help & Lead Tour," in an Auburn spirited fashion.
Standing in front of over 150 elementary teachers in the Olgletree Elementary School lunchroom adorned with colorful, encouraging posters, Ivey spoke about her past in education with Mayor Bill Ham standing to her left.
"Not only is she our governor, our 54th governor of the state of Alabama, but she is a graduate of Auburn University," Ham said. "I've heard her yell 'War Eagle' more than once and she does it well."
Ham said Ivey is "a champion of Alabama but a friend of Auburn."
"Auburn is thriving and when our cities thrive the whole state is better off," Ivey said.
The "champion" said she understood the sacrifices required when striving to be an effective teacher. Ivey was a high school teacher in her early career before diving into politics. She said teaching is a calling as she looked out across the makeshift conference hall.
Aside from her first stop at Ogletree, Ivey took stops at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, the newly constructed Auburn University's School of Nursing and Pharmacy, the Auburn High School and finished her day on the Plains in The Hotel at Auburn Unversity and Conference Center with lunch and a roundtable discussion with influential members of the Auburn community.
Ivey was followed around the city by legislators and Auburn employees of all natures. Rep. Joe Lovvorn, President Steven Leath, Auburn Ward 2 City Councilman Ron Anders and Student Government Association President Jacqueline Keck and Planning Commissioner Charles Pick were just a few of those present.
While at Auburn High School, Ivey said she was thoroughly impressed with Auburn as a whole. From the newly constructed, state-of-the-art Auburn High School to the Auburn University Nursing and Pharmacy building that is still under construction.
"I have been in Montgomery for some time now and a lot of families in Montgomery have moved to Auburn now to put their children in your schools because of the quality and results that students get in the Auburn school district," Ivey said.
Ivey said she thinks people are beating down the doors to get to Auburn for their school systems, both at the University and the local public schools.
Ivey commended the teachers for challenging their students to learn and comprehend on higher levels. Ivey said the best investment to be made toward economic development is dedicating time and resources to the schools in Alabama.
"Education is the heartbeat of our state," Ivey said.
She said her goal was for teachers to teach, without the worries of "unneeded regulations," so students can learn and progress during their time in public schooling. Ivey said how well a student learns in the third grade, defines how the student will succeed in the years to come.
"Statistics show us, related to the reading proficiency in the third grade, are used to determine how many beds are in the prisons," Ivey said.
After a few room-quieting statistics, Ivey expressed her pride in Auburn's public school district and specifically the Pre-Kindergarten division.
Ivey said she is always delighted to travel through the state, touring cities and seeing firsthand the needs that present themselves. She said getting out to see the "real people" is something she views as imperative to her position.
Ivey said she never envisioned herself in the office she now holds but sees it as an honor and opportunity to encourage women to step up, educators to progress and city leaders to make positive changes for their constituents.