Students young and old can tell you they always know when Flo Judd is coming down the hall. They hear her heels clicking on the floor and her keys jangling at her side. Her presence is enough to prompt wayward teenagers to put cellphones in their pockets, abandon passing period chatter and hurry to class. The 76-year-old Duncanville High School Assistant Principal has accomplished what many parents and teachers have failed to do: she has earned their respect
Judd began her career in education as an English teacher in Waco. The landscape was familiar because it is where she grew up on a farm, the youngest of five girls. Judd excelled as a student at Waco Midway High School graduating at the top of her class in 1958. She followed the same path as her sisters. Every one of them became teachers.
Judd taught at several schools early in her career, but she has spent 39 years at Duncanville High School. As an assistant principal, she handles discipline and attendance for a portion of the 10th grade.
“I love this district. I love this high school,” Judd said. “Being here is joyful. I can tell you, I never dread coming to work.”
During teacher appreciation week in early May, Judd received a beautiful bouquet of tulips. It was a gift from Carolyn James, a student she taught 50 years ago when she was an English teacher at Dallas Kimball High school.
Carolyn James remembers the first day she and her fellow students met Judd in 1966.
“As we heard the quick-paced clickety-clack of high heels coming down the hallway just before the bell rang on that first day, our class had no idea that things were about to change,” James said. “A beautifully groomed woman with a perfectly coiffed frosted bubble flip hairdo entered the room with a smile and a purpose.”
“She was hard. It wasn’t an easy class,” James said. “She was very, very firm, but it was just what we were all wanting and needing because for the first time we were being challenged to think and to write and to express our feelings and our emotions and our thoughts.”
James is now a counselor at a Dallas area school district and credits Judd for her career choice.
“I taught English for 30 years because of her. This is my 43rd year in education. I owe her my career of teaching and motivating kids to think critically and to express themselves.”
Actor Stephen Tobolowski, one of Carolyn James’ classmates, vividly remembers how Judd encouraged him to do his best in an upcoming drama contest. In the late 1960s, Tobolowski explained, football was much more accepted than acting as an appropriate activity for young men. Judd attended the one-act play and congratulated Tobolowski on his performance.
“At that point, I was 16 or 17, it made a huge difference to me to have an adult who we loved so much to love and appreciate what we did. It encouraged me and inspired me,” Tobolowski said.
Tobolowsky, a Dallas native, has compiled a lengthy list of roles in movies and television during his Hollywood career including playing an assistant state attorney on “CSI: Miami” and his role as the principal on “The Goldbergs. ” Despite the years that have passed and the success he has attained, Tobolowsky has not forgotten the impact Judd had on him as a high school student.
“Flo Judd was in that top echelon among great teachers,” Tobolowsky said. “She was always well-liked and one of our best and most enthusiastic teachers.”
Judd has seen many changes during her years in education. The most significant, she says: the size of high schools has increased exponentially, the needs of kids have changed with society, and the use of technology has had a tremendous impact on students.
“Social media, as far as I’m concerned, is an enemy of our kids,” Judd said.
Judd has adapted to the changes, and her commitment to her job has not waivered said Duncanville ISD Assistant Superintendent of Campus Support Michael Chrietzberg.
“She has 110-percent dedication and concern for her staff and students.” Chrietzberg said. “She wants it to be the best educational experience for kids every day.”
“If I can make a difference in the lives of children, then I’ve done a good job,” Judd said.
The rigor of Judd’s days – handling discipline issues, responding to crises on campus and staying on top of students’ attendance – doesn’t leave her a lot of time to think about retirement. Judd comes by her work ethic naturally. Her own mother worked in a municipal tax office until she was 85 years old.
“I’ve always said one more year. I don’t say that anymore,” Judd said. “I now say when the district or I decide I’m no longer the person for the job.”
Thinking back on her time as one of Judd’s students, James has a hard time picturing how anyone could take her spot.
“Today as a high school counselor I pray daily that I can instill that same confidence and desire to be their best in my students,” James said. “Trying to fill her shoes is impossible; her heels are just too high.”