Her mind holds the history of Homewood schools, but that’s never kept Dr. Betty Winches from being a progressive thinker. Known for both her wisdom and youthful energy, Winches’ ability to keep the schools moving forward has earned her a legendary reputation within the district.
Before becoming a notable Homewood educator, Winches grew up in Birmingham and went to Ensley High School. She later graduated from Jacksonville State University, and then taught in Huntsville starting in 1971. She was thrilled to return to the Birmingham area when her sportscaster husband, Herb Winches, was offered a job in town. She’s since watched her two daughters, Andrea and Amy, go through Homewood schools and now has a granddaughter, Marley McCormack, at Hall-Kent. Andrea now teaches special education at Homewood Middle School, too.
“I’m a bit of a relic around here.” she jokes. Adding that the current superintendent, Dr. Bill Cleveland, was only in second grade when she started working in Homewood, she obviously finds joy in her years of experience. Winches
Winches, who has served as Assistant Superintendent of Instruction since 1998, often refers to being a “keeper of the vision” for the schools. She explains that being successful is a purposeful thing, so school leaders must always keep in mind what makes Homewood special.
“Homewood is a very unique school district. We have a culture of love and acceptance,” Winches says. “That starts with the adults and has a positive impact on the kids.” She says that Homewood enables students to be all they want to be in ways few other districts do. For example, it holds an open policy for advanced placement classes (meaning students don’t have to “test” into them—they simply must keep up with the work). She also loves that Homewood embraces students’ various extracurricular interests—where else can you find show choir members who also play football?
Fellow colleague Dr. Patrick Chappell, director of instructional support at Homewood City Schools, believes that Winches is a big reason why Homewood schools excel as well as they do.
“In a district with a history of strong leadership, she is the real touchstone. She has a connection with all of those great leaders, past and present, and they’d be the first to tell you that she is always the workhorse behind the scenes,” he says. “Any great achievement that’s happened in Homewood Schools over the past 40 years has her fingerprints on it somewhere.”
Chappell also finds humor in just how far Winches will go to ensure success. During their years together at Homewood Middle School, they were in the running to be a National Blue Ribbon School. At the time they were still in the old HMS building and needed to prepare for a serious federal interviewer. He remembers that the night before the visit she was on her hands and knees cleaning everything—including a notorious refrigerator in the teacher’s lounge. “‘A nasty fridge is not keeping HMS from getting a Blue Ribbon,’” he recalls her saying. “And it didn’t,” Chappell adds.
Stories like these prove that education is more than just a job for Winches. Yet she admits she wasn’t sure at first. She gradually became more interested while in college until she knew she’d found her gift. “You know if it’s right for you once you get in the classroom,” she explains. “You have to have a true passion for education if you’re going to pursue it.”
Former students attest to her making the correct career choice. Lea Cockerham, the new assistant principal at Pathways in Homewood, remembers being in Winches’ first language arts class at Homewood Junior High in the 1970s. He says his first impression was that she was genuine. “From day one you knew she was going to be a special teacher and that she cared about your academic and personal well-being.”
Such an impressive career begs the question: What next? “People always ask me when I’m going to retire,” she says. “I feel certain I’ll know when it’s time.” When that day does come, she and her husband plan to retire on Lake Martin, where they own open-air lakeside restaurant The Landing at Parker Creek and Eagle’s Landing tiny home village.
So what will Homewood City Schools do without her? Humility is not lost on Winches. “I think Homewood will be absolutely fine. There are plenty of great people here who will carry on the vision—I’ll miss Homewood more than it will miss me,” she says. “It’s been my pleasure and my gift to serve here. When you can look back and say you wouldn’t do anything differently—and I can—you can end with a smile.”
The full scope of Dr. Betty Winches’ resume could read like a novel, so here’s a quick glimpse at her amazing career record.
- Classroom Teacher, Madison Pike Elementary School, 1971-1975
- Classroom Teacher, Homewood Junior High School, 1975-1977
- Guidance Counselor, Homewood Junior High School, 1977-1978
- Psychometrist, Homewood City Schools, 1978-1986
- Instructional Support Coordinator, Homewood City Schools, 1986-1994
- Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction, Homewood Middle School, 1994-1998
- Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, Homewood City Schools, 1998-present