Ledford retired after nearly 40 years in the Bradley County school system, 12 1/2 years of which were spent at Valley View.
Limburg said his first semester as the school’s principal was spent striving to carry on the “legacy” she left, and he will continue to carry on what he she did to rally the community around the school and its students.
“She built a really strong community tie here,” Limburg said. “It was an easy spot for me to slip into.”
After teaching physical education at the Michigan Avenue and Waterville Community elementary schools, he served as a PE teacher at Valley View for five years prior to Ledford’s retirement.
He began his teaching career after graduating from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2007. Later earning two graduate degrees from the Tennessee Technological University, he said it had been a “dream” of his to become a school principal one day.
Born in Knoxville and raised in Cleveland, he called himself “a product of the Bradley County school system.” The Bradley Central High School graduate said it was “a really humbling thing” to be able to serve as a principal in the same school system he was part of as a child.
When it came time to take over the leadership of Valley View, Limburg said he made very few changes, which he said was a testament to the leadership that had been in place before him.
“There weren’t a lot of changes,” Limburg said. “I didn’t see the need. What we’re doing works.”
One of the biggest parts of Ledford’s legacy, he explained, is a motto that explains how students should feel in order to best absorb the most knowledge they can in school.
Limburg said the job of the school’s staff and teachers is to make students feel “safe, loved and important.”
He said students should feel they are in a safe, secure school environment, and said Valley View had already done a good job of doing things like reworking the building’s main entrance to ensure safety. Students should also feel “safe” to confide in their teachers about any concerns they have.
Students should also feel “loved,” knowing that their school cares about them “like a family would.”
Limburg said he does not want to be viewed as a principal children only see when they get in trouble, so he tries to continue to get to know the students and congratulate them on their accomplishments the way he started doing when he was a teacher.
“They do see me differently now,” Limburg said. “I want them to remember me as their number one fan.”
With the school system’s continued emphasis on leadership, Limburg said students should also feel that what they say and do is “important.”
As he has tried to ensure the school meets those goals, he said it has been challenging to get used to the level of responsibility that comes with such a leadership role.
Instead of just being responsible for ensuring his students meet their goals, he also looks to see that his teachers are meeting their goals as well. However, the “legacy” he stepped into was one that instilled goals that many of the teachers have continued to embrace.
“We have an amazing faculty,” Limburg said. “We’re all on the same page when it comes to our learning goals.”
His goals for Valley View for his first full school year as principal include overseeing the adding of more opportunities for students to take on leadership roles at school and trying to get students more excited about literacy.
With all the debates going on in the educational arena about things like Common Core and testing, he said teaching can be a discouraging job some days.
While he said things like testings and rankings are important, Limburg said he likes to remind the teachers that their number one job is to make sure students are able to learn all they can — even if students sometimes do poorly on tests.
“Principals have to let their teachers know they are appreciated,” he explained. “They’re not defined by a number.”
Valley View’s principal credits his wife, Lauren, a math teacher at Walker Valley High School, with being the one who has kept him grounded and supported his “dream.”
Coming from a family of educators, he said he has long seen the value of education, something he likes to promote in the community.
Limburg said he believes everyone in a community should feel a sense of responsibility for ensuring students are ready to learn when they go to school.
“You have a stake in the success of our kids,” Limburg said. “That starts with making our kids feel safe, loved and important.”
Though he only spoke of Valley View, he says he believes the community is already invested in that success, something he also credits Ledford with fostering.
During her tenure the school gained business and church partners like Downtown Design Studio, Misty Mountain Greenhouse, Bank of Cleveland, Valley View Baptist Church and Samples Memorial Baptist Church.
“The community takes a lot of pride in our school,” Limburg said.
However, he stressed the importance of the trend of people supporting their local schools — all of them, not just Valley View — continuing.
“I look at the school system as an investment in the future,” Limburg said. “We’re educating our business leaders, our mayors, our pastors. … The future is in our classrooms.”