Spotlight On Irondale’s Schools – Shades Valley High School/JCIB/SVTA

August marks the beginning of a new school year for one of Irondale’s most treasured resources, our kids.  The City of Irondale is very fortunate to be the home of several award winning schools.  In a recent Irondale On the Move  visioning survey of Irondale citizens, the quality of our schools was selected as one of the top reasons most citizens chose to call Iondale home.

This is the first in a series of interviews with the lead administrators of each of Irondale’s schools.  The primary purpose of these interviews are to give our educators an opportunity to share their goals, challenges and strategies for the upcoming school year.  We’ll also provide a glimpse of who they are outside of the classroom.

Our first spotlight will be on Mary Beth Blankenship, Principal of Shades Valley High School, Jefferson County Inter-Baccalaureate High School and Shades Valley Technical Academies.


Ms.Blankenship has served as principal of Shades Valley High School/JCIB/SVTA since 2011.  During her tenure, SVHS/JCIB/SVTA have received numerous awards and accommodations for academics,athletics and civic service.  Irondale On The Move sat down with Ms. Blankenship to discuss the upcoming school year and her vision for Shades Valley High School/JCIB/SVTA.

  • What excites you most about the new school year ?  We are focusing in our state of graduating students college and career ready.  At SVHS this year our focus in on helping students to “Create Career Connections”.  Many students do not realize how important their education is as it relates to their future success.  In all that we do, we want teachers to connect learning to real life application and their future.  Many of our teachers have spent numerous hours in professional development learning to create a classroom that is innovative and student centered.  I am excited about what our students will be doing in the classroom.  Along with college and career readiness, we are also working to create career focused academies.  We look at a students future goals and create a four year course plan to put them in classes that are directly related to their career interest.  Research shows that when students are engaging in course work that is of interest to them, attendance and academics improve.  I am excited for our students and teachers as we enter this year with focus on students and their success.
  • What are some of the biggest challenges facing educators today ?  I believe the greatest challenges teachers are facing today is a result of the lack of funding by our state.  We are unable to provide our students with the technology they need to become successfully 21st century citizens.  Resources are a minimal due to financial restraints of the past years.  Educators today are expected to continue to do more with less.  At some point, the less runs out.  When this occurs, it has a negative impact on teacher moral.  Many have not seen a pay raise in several years. So along with the lack of resources and financial rewards, sometimes teaching becomes tough.  I am so proud of our teachers at SVHS/JCIB/SVTA.  They continue to work day in and day out with the resources they have, giving their very best to assist our students.  We will continue to do the best with what we have and do all we can do to keep moral high.
  • What do you like most about your job? I don’t really look at what I do as a job.  It is really my life’s work.  I come to school each and every day hoping to make a positive impact on students, staff, and teachers alike.  The best thing about my work is when you see students succeed, when they come up and give you a hug or a fist pump, when they write you a note and/or say thank you.  The greatest reward is when they come back to see you, that is enough in itself, but when you see that they have become a successful young man or woman, you hope that you have played a small part in that. What do you like least about your job ? The human resource is sometimes a challenging part and when you lose a student .
  • How can the community get more involved with bettering our schools ? I would love to see our community attend events at the school from athletic events to fine arts events (band/choir concerts, theater productions, etc…)  They may not have a student here, however their support would be awesome.  As we work towards college and career readiness for our students, we need our local business to provide internships, job shadowing, and volunteer opportunities for our students.  Any financial support they could give to the school would be appreciated.  We are always in need of computers, iPads, etc….Sending a teacher a note to say thanks for what you do is always a plus.  It is the little things that mean so much and school employees always need to be encourage.  We are doing our best to develop these young men and women to be future leaders and citizens in our community.  Support in any way is valued and appreciated.
  • If you weren’t an educator what would your profession be ?  In my wildest dreams I would be a professional golfer.  However, I have wanted to be a teacher and a coach since I was a sophomore in high school.  I never dreamed I would be a principal of a high school like SVHS/JCIB/SVTA.  I do believe that God has placed me here for purpose and a plan.  I feel very blessed to be here to serve the students of Irondale and the other students we serve.
  • What do you like doing in your spare time ?  I don’t really have lots of spare time…. I am usually at school catching up or planning.  I am all about being the best for our students and our staff, I like things to be perfect and planned out.  But if I had to pick I enjoy golf, reading a good book on the beach, snow skiing (only one week out of the year, cannot take the cold too long), and spending time with my family at our lake house.

Interviewed by Darryl Washington, Program Director of Irondale On The Move