Dr. Franklin Penn is retiring after 49 years in education. | Clif Knight
Dr. Franklin Penn is retiring after 49 years in education. | Clif Knight

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Dr. Franklin Penn retires after 49 years as educator

Published 10:21am Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hartselle City School System is missing one of its longest-tenured educators this school year.

Dr. Franklin Penn retired at the end of the 2013-2014 school year after a 49-year education career

The Hartselle native expressed mixed emotions about giving up a career during which he taught an estimated 5,000 high school and 2,000 college students.

“I loved to teach,” he said. “There was never a day I didn’t want to go to work. I’ve taught many students who went on to excel in careers such as medical doctors, judges, teachers and many other occupations. From time to time, I’ll meet former students who thank me for teaching them when they were in high school. That’s a nice thing about being a teacher.”

Penn said he looks forward to having the free time to do some things he always wanted to do but couldn’t find the time to get done.

“”I’m giving serious thought to doing some writing and continuing to counsel with children and adults,” he stated. “I may decide to open a private counseling service.”

Penn is a graduate of the former Morgan County High School, University of North Alabama and The University of Alabama. He received a B.S. degree in social science and a master’s degree in secondary education at UNA, an education specialist degree and doctorate degree at UA.

His education degree began with a phone call he received from J.C. Pettey, the superintendent of Morgan County Schools, when he was a senior at UNA.

“He said MCHS would be hiring more than one new teacher for the 1964-1965 school year and asked me if I was interested in being considered for one of the positions,” Penn recalled. “I told him I was interested and subsequently was interviewed and hired by Principal Dr. Joe Coupland. I was assigned six classes to teach per day plus assigned a homeroom for the next year. Later that year, I became Student Council advisor and was named Key Club advisor the following year.”

During the 1960s and 1970s, MCHS Student Council members held offices in the Alabama and Southern Association of Student Councils. Penn also served as president of Student Council Advisors in the AASC. Student Council members worked with the City of Hartselle and Morgan County Commission to pave all of the parking area at the high school, then measured, painted and numbered all student and teacher parking spaces.

During the years Penn served as Key Club advisor it’s members were elected to state offices including governor, lieutenant governor and Bama Bulletin editor.

Penn also initiated first and second year psychology classes at MCHS. He taught five classes in the subject for 27 yeas and served as an instructor in psychology for evening and night classes at Calhoun Community College in several locations.

In 1972, Penn received his education specialist degree form UA and was named Alabama Teacher of the Year. The award included a $1,500 scholarship that was used for his doctoral studies. He remains certified in psychology, counseling and two other subjects and is “highly qualified” by the State Department of Education in all of those areas.

In the 1990s, Hartselle Board of Education set up drug testing regulations and procedures for junior high and high school students who participate in athletics and clubs. Penn was named drug-testing coordinator. He had written a 180-page handbook on drug abuse for counselors a few years earlier. He soon collaborated with the Mental Health Association to write and apply for federal grants to pay for the drug tests. For five years, these grants paid for the school system’s entire drug testing as well as the employment of a part-time certified drug abuse counselor.

Penn has been active throughout his career in promoting mental health in children and adolescents. He represents the City of Hartselle on the Mental Health Board of North Central Alabama. The board oversees mental health services and over 150 psychiatrists, nurses, counselors and other mental health workers. He is a recipient of the Georgia Vallery Award for outstanding services on behalf of Community Mental Health Centers in Alabama and the Thomas M. Guyton Humanitarian Award from the Hartselle Area Chamber of Commerce.

He is a member of the Autism Society of America, Learning Disabilities Association of America, International Dyslexia Association and American Psychological Association.

Penn is married to Susan Adams Penn, a retired fourth grade teacher, a Mensa member and a breast cancer survivor. They have two adult children, Brack, who has autism, and Cari Beth, who is an author and a researcher in cognitive psychology.

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