RUSKIN — If you’ve gone to school in south Hillsborough County or had children or even grandchildren in school here in the last 35 years, you’ve probably heard the name Joe Green.
Now a part-time adjunct professor of education at the University of South Florida, Green’s boss is officially his wife Bea, who is a full-time professor there. The couple enjoys saying that, because when they met, her soon-to-be husband was officially her boss.
Green has a long history in education in the area and has influenced many students and fellow teachers. In fact, he has such a strong following a group has a petition effort going to name the new elementary school being built near Lennard High School in Ruskin after him.
“I am a hesitant participant in this,” Green said when interviewed last week. “It was supposed to be a surprise, but my wife told me so I wouldn’t be completely blindsided when I heard it. I was greatly humbled that people think enough of me to do such a thing.”
Green was originally a school principal in Columbus, Ohio before moving to Ruskin in 1977. Because his mother has lived in Seffner most of her life, the area was a natural choice for them, he said.
When he first arrived, he was in business, but shortly after that, found he missed being in education.
Hired as a teacher at Mango Elementary School in 1979, the principal there became ill and having been a principal previously, Green was appointed as acting principal. That quickly led to his being made principal of Ruskin elementary in 1981 where he acted in that capacity until 1991.
He was then called upon to open the new Cypress Creek Elementary School in 2001 and under his guidance, that school worked with Tampa Electric Company in the dedication of TECO’s Manatee Viewing Center in Apollo Beach and the manatee became the school’s mascot.
“We had a satellite that enabled us to communicate with other schools that had the same capability,” Green said. “We did a broadcast from the Manatee Center at the dedication.”
Another thing he is remembered for during those years is starting an intern program in conjunction with USF’s College of Education. At times he – and teachers working for him- would mentor 10-22 interns on the premises of Cypress Creek. The purpose was two-fold: interns learned first-hand classroom methods of teaching, and the school benefited from the extra help.
“It was always a win-win situation,” Green said.
Ellen Kleinschmidt, who is now artistic and musical director at the Performing Arts Company, and a music teacher at Reddick Elementary School, taught at Cypress Creek while Green was principal there.
“As a principal, Mr. Green was every teacher’s dream come true,” Kleinschmidt said. “I had the honor to work as a music teacher with him for many years. I’ll never forget the day he hired me. He gave me a tour. He was so proud of the students and the teachers and called it his school. He believed you never have a second chance to make a first impression and always saw to it the school was clean and the grounds beautiful with lush green grass and flowers. He led by example. Every day he wore a shirt with the school’s mascot on it. Everyone acted and worked as professionals, because that was how he expected them to be.”
During Green’s tenure at Cypress Creek, the school was identified as a Professional Development School and was often visited by legislators because it was a model for working successfully with at-risk students, Kleinschmidt said.
At least 25 of the teachers who worked with him have moved on to administrative positions in the school district, his wife Bea said.
But teachers weren’t the only ones who appreciated Green’s attitude and work. Parents liked the way he ran his school as well.
“I had two children go to school there while he was principal,” said Suzie Vong McCracken. “I’ve known him 30 years. He has done so much work not only for the schools but for the local community.”
Some of these things include working with the Ruskin Chamber of Commerce and helping organize the first annual Ruskin Seafood Festival; working on community projects with the Ruskin Rotary Club and selling Christmas trees for the Lions Club to help the vision impaired and blind; and doing volunteer work for his church.
McCracken started a petition effort to name the new school after Green.
“It should have his name because he has done things to help Ruskin and the surrounding community all these years,” she said.
According to Jill Edward of the Construction Department for the county’s school district (which is the eighth largest school district in the country) the new elementary school is targeted to open in August 2014 and the school board should decide on a name for it sometime in the spring of 2013. It is to be located directly west of Lennard High School but has not received its formal address.
People who wish to sign the petition to name it after Green may contact McCracken, who has copies of it in her beauty salon, The World of Suzie Vong, located at 33820 Sun City Center Blvd. (State Road 674) on the border of Ruskin and Sun City Center.