Hired in 1979 as a receptionist, one of the most loved women in Fuquay-Varina is winding down her 33- year career at Fuquay-Varina Middle School. Even though Mrs. Barbara Wagstaff, Lead Secretary of FVMS, will officially retire on June 30, she will not stop inspiring everyone she meets and lifting the hearts of those who need it.
To many she is known as “The Face of FVMS.” Her current supervisor Principal Mark Holley labeled her “an institution” at Fuquay Middle saying with a smile on his face, “She has touched the lives of everybody she meets in a positive way. I will certainly miss her professionalism and the way she cared about the students, school, and community. She has been a tremendous asset to me personally.”
In appreciation for her contribution to education, FVMS honored her with a retirement party on May 29. The staff presented Mrs. Wagstaff with a Pandora bracelet, with each grade level adding symbolic charms.
Although many superlative titles could be applied to Mrs. Wagstaff, most importantly she is known as mother and grandmother. In fact, one of the reasons that she applied for her job was to be with her only child in the afternoons and summers when he started school.
She said, “working at FVMS has richly blessed my life and gave me the opportunity to be available for my son throughout his school years.”
Her family is such a significant part of her life that one of the things she is looking forward to most about retirement is spending more time with her husband, family, and especially her grandchildren.
Even though she is looking forward to some of the benefits of retirement, she is going to miss many aspects of her job. “I take great pride in the community and at church stating that I work for Fuquay-Varina Middle School, and I will miss being a part of the school,” she said.
Undoubtedly, her favorite part of her job was her daily interaction with staff and students. She has met a lot of inspirational people in her career but stated that two have really stood out. Not long after she started at FVMS, a student and co-worker both died of cancer. Revealing her compassionate heart, Mrs. Wagstaff reminisced, “I loved both of them dearly and their attitude under dire circumstances left lasting impressions on my heart.”
When I asked her to describe a humorous incident that stood out in her career, she recalled how she once wanted to put her own highlights in her hair, but something went terribly wrong. She ended up with black hair in the front and white in the back! She jokingly says that she looked like a penguin from the movie Happy Feet. Not knowing what to do, she called one of her co-workers to her home saying it was an emergency. Since she had used permanent hair color, they concluded that she should just down- play her hair with different colors of clothing. Well, of course, the next morning two buses were late, so she had a huge line of students who came in to get their notes to class. She kept her head as low as possible when a kid at the back of the line yelled, “Mrs. Wagstaff, did you dye your hair?” This question started a noisy chain reaction that Mrs. Wagstaff will never forget and made her realize that she could never be successful as a hairdresser.
Mrs. Wagstaff says that she will always be grateful to Wake County Public Schools for giving her the opportunity to work with such a great system and for the privilege of working with all of the staff and PTA at FVMS. Even though changes in technology from the days of using a manual typewriter and copying materials for teachers have made her duties easier, saying goodbye to a career she has loved will not be easy. Overall, she remarks that a quotation from an unknown author sums up all that she is trying to express: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Numerous students, parents, and colleagues have all benefitted from a career that became a calling in her life. I believe that I speak for everybody when I say that we will miss Barbara Wagstaff more than she could ever know when that last school bell rings. Even though FVMS is losing a beloved Bengal, Mrs. Barbra Wagstaff will always remain a favorite Bengal in our hearts.