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The Topeka icon is preparing for retirement after 35 years of education

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – The spotlight at this week’s Salute Our Heroes is on a Topeka icon who paved the way to success for many schoolchildren in the Capital.

“I’m just someone who loves teaching and taking care of kids and that’s why I’m doing it,” says New.

Dr. Beryl New says educating children has been her life’s work.

Dr. New worked as an English teacher for 12 years and added the role of a part-time counselor before taking over from Dale Cushinberry, as principal of Highland Park High School in 2010.

“Having the privilege of joining a family, a community that he had built over decades and being welcomed and being approved by him so far, we’re going to pass that on to the mother, you know the kind of situation, it just felt like a natural transition for me,” says New.

The role would make New the first African-American female high school principal in Topeka. In 2017, she transitioned to director of certified personnel and equity at Topeka Public Schools.

New holds an impressive track record from serving on the board of Midland Care Hospice, serving as a member of the Kansas Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency, and being selected as chairman of the African-American Affairs Commission for Kansas last year.

With 35 years under her belt, New says she’s not sure about retiring this year until she has a near-death experience while at work.

“In fact, I had thought maybe about a month ago, maybe I shouldn’t retire right now, but then I had a little choking episode here at work where I completely lost consciousness and actually died clinically, if not had it been for my coworkers who were right there one knew cardiopulmonary resuscitation and one heard me what he thought was loud snoring but I was asphyxiating and rushed in and within seconds people were there doing what was needed to bring me back. I was having a happy dream. So I thought, okay Lord, if you’re telling me not to deviate from the plan, I’m going to stick to the plan,” says New

New says a career in education has put her on much more than being a good educator.

“When you truly love you can make mistakes. You can say something or do something that you have to come back and apologize for, but when they know you really care about them they will still accept it and give you a hug and sometimes those connections are all it takes to change the trajectory of a child’s life,” she says. New.

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