Anyone who has been through Quitman School District can recognize the sweet, encouraging smile of Tammy Alford.
She truly believes in attaining a quality education and worked diligently to be able to do what she loves: teaching.
“I was born in Morton, Mississippi, in 1970, and went to school at Morton High School. What’s funny about that is that Morton was the blue and gold Panthers also, so I’ve always been a blue and gold Panther,” stated Tammy. “When I graduated from high school, I commuted and went to East Central Community College for a couple of years and got my Associate’s Degree from there. Then, I turned around and commuted the other way and went to Mississippi College and got my Bachelor’s Degree there. My Bachelor’s Degree is actually in business administration, but I minored in business education. When I first started teaching, I worked on my Master’s Degree and got my Master’s Degree in technology teacher education from Mississippi State University.”
When she obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in 1991, Tammy proceeded to search for a teaching job. She can still recall everything about when she first came to Quitman to be hired.
“I’ve been teaching here at Quitman since August of 1991. I drove down old 145 South and interviewed for Mr. James Morgan in the summer of 1991,” remembered Tammy. “I can still remember to this day pulling up to those steps and have my interview with Mr. Morgan. Then, he got Mrs. Annie to take me and show me around town in case I got the job so that I’d know what it was like. Mrs. Annie took me around and showed me a couple places that were rentals in case I got the job. I’ve been here for 30 years now and wouldn’t change a thing.”
That year was exciting for Tammy because not only did she get the job teaching at Quitman, but she was also set to get married in December.
“I married my best friend, Randall. He’s someone I’ve known since I was in first grade, and we were friends throughout high school. We had never dated all that time and didn’t start dating until my junior year in college, and we ended up getting married in December of 1991,” recalled Tammy. “I came up here that first semester to teach, but Randall didn’t; he came at Christmas. I remember trying to figure out what we were going to do if Randall got a job up here before we got married because back then the etiquette was that you just didn’t stay together before getting married. Mr. Baldwin would laugh at me, and I can remember him picking on me, but it worked out perfectly. We got married the first week of December, and Randall got a job the very next week.”
Although she doesn’t have any children of her own, she has helped care for thousands of children over the years as they come through her class. She loves each of her students as if they were her own, and she and her husband have both been able to make some incredible memories over the years with her students.
“I don’t have any children of my own. We tried to have children, but that didn’t happen. God has still blessed me, though,” expressed Tammy. “I feel so blessed because I’ve been able to share in the lives of thousands of children over the last 30 years and had some extremely special moments.”
Some of the greatest moments she has been able to share have been taking FBLA students on various trips over the years for competition.
“I started FBLA in the 2007-2008 school year. Out of all the years since then, there’s only one year that we didn’t have anyone qualify to go to competition, and of course last year Covid messed us up. I’ve been able to travel with students to Atlanta, GA, and Nashville, TN, twice. We’ve been to San Antonio, TX, and Anaheim, CA, twice. We actually went to Disneyworld in Florida for one of our competitions. Then, we’ve been to some unusual places like Chicago, IL, and Baltimore, MD. All the kids who have ever gone have been fantastic,” recalled Tammy. “I’ve done some firsts alongside the students doing some firsts on some of the trips. I remember the first time we ended up going to California it was with Brendan Hamburg, Michael Smith, Stephanie Miles, and Vanessa Gable. None of us had ever been on a plane other than Randall, so we got on an airplane for the first time together. It was a rough ride. On the way up there, the ride was super smooth, but the landing was horrific. When we landed, the landing was super rough. We bounced a couple of times, and I don’t know if he overshot the runway or didn’t get enough runway, but he had to slam on the brakes. We went into the back of the seats because we couldn’t hold ourselves off. I was trying not to panic and asked Randall if it was normal, and he said no.”
Some of the firsts she was able to experience with both her husband and some students were fun and sweet. They also were able to witness new things and learn a variety of life lessons together while on some of their trips.
“I saw the ocean for the first time with some of the kids, and we were able to put our feet in the water. In Baltimore a few years ago, we had Scotty Sutton, Logan Kelly, Tyrikus Hayes, Julian Noel, and Bailey McDaniel. I was a little scared of Baltimore for the kids because of it being a big city, and they got to learn some lessons in the hotel we were staying at. It was a nice hotel, but every night a little lady would come across the street and sleep on the stoop of this dance company. She was homeless and would cover up with newspapers and go to sleep. A couple times a couple of FBLA members and myself took food to her,” expressed Tammy. “That was also where Francis Scott Key was on the British ship and wrote the Star Spangled Banner, and we got to see all the history behind that. We went through the law museum, and we got to hear the cannons being shot. They were remaking like the British soldiers marching. There was a ginormous flag that they lifted every day, and by the grace of God we were there when they were lifting it, and all of our students got to help lift the flag. It gave me chills.”
She also makes sure that FBLA participates in multiple service projects. She truly believes in helping people and would love to be able to be even more active in the community with various projects.
“I do a lot of community service with FBLA,” stated Tammy. “We do our food drives for the local food pantries. We collected Christmas toys for the Clarke County Sheriff’s Department. We’ve adopted kids from DHS and bought gifts for them over the years. We collect the receipts and everything from Cash Savers for the elementary school. We’ve done Box Tops, but I would like to do more community service.”
Although she is already busy with her career in education and sponsoring FBLA, Tammy also volunteers with the Distinguished Young Women program each year.
“There are some fabulous women who help with that program, and I only do a small part of a huge job,” said Tammy. “I help with the little sisters, and I help do the dress rehearsal party. I sell ads. I help with the interview practice. I help print the pages for the judges’ books. That’s how everyone on the committee is. It’s a team effort. I’m the main person on the interview team, though. I always hate it because the girls always say I’m the one who always asks the questions they don’t like. My part on the interview is to ask the current event questions, so I ask current events like how many executive orders President Biden did this week and get them to name one and explain it. They always do a great job, though.”
After spending 30 years at Quitman, Tammy is frequently asked when she plans to retire. Through the hard years and easy years, she has always evaluated if she plans to leave or not. She prays and seeks God’s guidance on the matter, and at the moment her answer is still clear.
“I can’t imagine not being here,” expressed Tammy. “I wouldn’t trade anything for what I do.”
No matter what day of the week it is, Tammy is always doing something. She is always doing everything she can to try and help others. Thanks to her busy life, she always keeps in mind a word of advice that she would offer the rest of the county.
“Make sure to keep God first, your family right behind God, and then your work life last,” advised Tammy. “Just enjoy life and don’t worry so much.”