Odom retires after 28-year career serving children with disabilities

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After serving children with disabilities for nearly 30 years, Betty Odom has retired to spend more time with her family.

Since 2010, Odom has served children in Jasper City Schools as the director of special education, and she retired a couple of months ago.

Odom started her career in education later in life, after having children. Upon graduating from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1992 with a bachelor's degree in special education, Odom got her first teaching job at then-Sumiton Elementary/Middle School.

She worked as a special education teacher at the school for one year before taking another special education position at Curry High School, where she taught for five years.

She then transitioned to the city schools' system and taught special education for three years at T.R. Simmons Elementary School. She later taught at then-Maddox Middle School and Park Elementary Elementary School.

During her teaching years, Odom went back to school to secure a master's degree, in hopes of obtaining an administrative position. She was offered the job of special education director for Jasper City Schools in 2010 and also became the principal of North Highlands School in Jasper that served children with physical and developmental disabilities.

The school closed in 2017, but Odom continued to serve all children with disabilities in the Jasper City Schools system until her retirement.

"I just had a heart for special needs kids all my life, really," Odom said. "As I got older, it just intrigued me that much more to see if I could help kids learn and help them in any way. You just do the very best that you can for each child and whatever their potential is, is what you want to reach."

Odom said it was a difficult decision to retire, but she wanted to spend more time with her 13 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

"It was just time to come home and spend some time with my family. I did start as an older adult going to school. I had my children first and then went back to school and got my degree and started working, so I think 28 years after that time, it was time for me to come home," she said.

Odom spoke of her intriguing background prior to her last 28 years in education. 

Years ago she taught piano lessons and worked at a ladies' department store in Dora, Keynote Fashions.

Odom also had another talent — singing.

"I sang a lot when I was growing up, and after I got older I sang on the Country Boy Eddie Show (then on WBRC) for about eight years," she said. 

Odom later took her musical talents to the classroom by playing guitar and electric piano for her students.

Odom also had (and still has) a love for baking. It was a hobby she acquired after taking a cake class at the Boldo Community Center in the late 1970s. She later established her own catering company that operated for 31 years, even while she was teaching.

"I did wedding cakes and catered hundreds of weddings. I used to do that all the time," Odom said.

While dedicating time to her children and grandchildren is Odom's number one priority now, she also hopes to travel more often. Odom said she has children and grandchildren that reside all over the world, from Russia to Germany, and in all corners of the United States.

Wherever life takes her, Odom said she will forever cherish her years in education.

"I will miss the kids and being around all my fellow educators and people I worked with. I miss going to work every day ... but I'm sure I can find lots of things to keep me busy," she said. "I just appreciate the opportunity of being able to work with all the kids I've worked with over the years and the people I've worked with. I can't say that I've ever had a better time working with anybody than I did with kids in the special needs system. They're just a joy to work with, and you get so many good feelings when you can do something to help kids."

Odom added, "Everybody can learn, I believe. It may just be a different way than others."

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