MS ACTE Administrator, Counselor of the Year Share Decades of Combined Service
Kosciusko-Attala Career Technical Center (KACTC) Counselor Tracy Hardy (left) and Director Tony Holder stand outside the facility at which they have worked together for 21 years.
Holder (standing) assists Kenneth Georgia (foreground) and Melissa Rives with the Wheel of Life table at KACTC’s annual reality fair.
Holder (right) discusses a monthly budget from KACTC’s reality fair with Ethel High School junior Tyler Weaver, a first-year Automotive Service student at the center.
KACTC Health Science students Joshua Alvarado (center) and Jada Smith (right) — sophomores at Ethel High School and Kosciusko High School, respectively — use an enlarged heart diagram to teach Hardy about blood flow through the heart.
Tony Holder and Tracy Hardy view each day at Attala County’s Kosciusko-Attala Career Technical Center (KACTC) as spending time with family.
That family atmosphere is one of the reasons Holder and Hardy have worked together at the center for 21 years as the director and counselor, respectively.
Holder and Hardy have shared many experiences together, including being named Mississippi Association for Career and Technical Education (MS ACTE) Administrator of the Year and MS ACTE Counselor of the Year, respectively, for the 2019-2020 academic year.
Holder started his career as the Technology Applications instructor in the Yazoo City School District and would go on to add assistant director responsibilities to his teaching duties. The experience he gained under his director, Larry Summers, would serve as a model for him when he moved to Kosciusko in 2000.
Holder initially joined the KACTC as the Technology Applications instructor, but that summer he was offered the director’s position when Wayne Hill, the center’s director, retired.
Hill was the one who encouraged Hardy, who taught cooperative education at the center since 1998, to go back to school for a counseling degree. After she finished that degree in 2002, Holder moved her into the counselor’s role — one of the best decisions he said he made early in his tenure. Little did he know, that decision would lead to a long-lasting friendship and working partnership.
Hardy now guides students at the same center that shaped her path forward in education, although she wouldn’t discover her fondness for teaching until college. Hardy took business and computer technology (BCT) at the KACTC as a junior, but it was during her junior year at Mississippi State University she developed an appreciation for education and the influence her high school BCT teacher, Charla Pepper, had in that discovery. Thanks to a discussion with Pepper, Hardy started teaching BCT at the Leake County Career and Technical Center. Now, Hardy said she can’t see herself in a different career.
“I told [Pepper], ‘I want to do what you’re doing,’” Hardy said. “She influenced me so much in high school. To this day, we are still friends and still communicate. She made a difference in my life.”
Hardy now influences KACTC students the way Pepper did for her by exposing them to the array of career paths available to them. She says it is rewarding “to see students grow, decide what they want to do for a career and then thrive in that career.”
In their current roles, Hardy and Holder not only reach students who come through their center, but they also support the teachers who are like members of their own family.
“I know what my teachers face every day. People will say, ‘It looks like you have a good thing going’ or ‘You must be doing a good job.’ I’ll tell them it’s not me,” Holder said. “My job is easy. My teachers make me look good. They are the ones doing the work and teaching every day. If you surround yourself with good people, it makes your job easier.”
That’s why he leans so heavily on Hardy. Holder said her rapport with the students and teachers is “vital to the success of the center.” Hardy wears many hats at the center, including coordinating all the communication efforts to external stakeholders and parents. Hardy said she has many ideas. While some work and others don’t, Hardy said she appreciates how Holder gives her the opportunity to try them.
“If he knows that I have the students’ best interests at heart, then he’ll do whatever he can to make sure that happens,” Hardy said.
“At the end of the day, we want to do what’s best for the kids. If someone has a better idea, then I want to hear it,” Holder added. “We are all in it together — trying to educate kids and prepare them to be successful citizens.”
Holder and Hardy said they are honored to be named the administrator and counselor of the year, although they see it as simply doing their best to support the center’s staff and students.
“In one respect, I feel like I’m just doing my job, but I keep thinking it’s just an honor to be recognized for doing my job because I absolutely love what I do. I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Hardy said.
Holder echoed those sentiments and said his reflection takes him back to the success stories of students who have come through the center.
“Every decision I make is about the kids. That’s what gives me a sense of accomplishment,” he said. “If I can say the administrator of the year tag means I made a difference in a kid’s life, that’s where I get my satisfaction.”
Because of the impact they make on students and the bond they formed, Holder and Hardy both see guiding the students in Attala County as a passion, not a job.