LNLC aide moves on after 26 years

Kay Parker, an instructional aide at the Linda Nolen Learning Center in Pelham, is retiring after 26 years of working with Shelby County children with disabilities. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

When Linda Nolen Learning Center instructional aide Kay Parker arrived at her last full day on the job Nov. 30, she had no idea what was in store for her.

Parker, who has been working with children with disabilities in Shelby County for the past 26 years, said she became suspicious over the past several days when her coworkers began acting strangely.

“When you see everyone whispering and sneaking around, you kind of realize that something is going on,” Parker said with a laugh. “But I was very surprised this morning.”

Shortly after Parker arrived at school, her coworkers shocked her with a surprise party in honor of her decades of service to the school, which was known as the Center for Exceptional Children when she began working with the Shelby County School System.

“It was a perfect way to go out on a high note,” Parker said.

Parker’s day typically begins at about 6 a.m. when she runs a school bus route to pick up students at Thompson Middle School and Thompson High School. She then works at the school until noon, and runs another bus route in the afternoons.

Parker said she had previously been contemplating retirement, but decided to move on at the end of the year after the state announced it would require educators to pay more for their insurance coverage.

Although her last full day at the school was Nov. 30, Parker said she will continue to substitute teach at LNLC until Dec. 31.

Through her job at the school, Parker works with a classroom of about seven children with disabilities on lessons involving hygiene, pre-vocational skills and daily living skills.

Throughout the years, Parker said she has developed a special relationship with the children she has helped at LNLC.

“You grow attached to the children. I love all of these children because they touch my heart in so many ways,” Parker said. “That’s what has kept me grounded here.

“Sometimes it may take months to see progress, but when the kids figure something out or do something they’ve been working on for months, there is nothing better.”