WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — If you think you’re too old to pursue your lifelong passion, meet Phil Mansfield. He’s a teacher assistant at Walter L. Parsley Elementary School in Wilmington.
“Its the chapter I always thought I would write but I just waited a while to write it,” Mansfield said. “Sometimes, careers get in the way and mine certainly did for a while.”
Mansfield retired four years ago after a long career as a car salesman which spanned more than 30 years. Following his retirement, he soon realized he needed to find something constructive to do to fill his time and he decided to pursue his lifelong passion to teach.
“I thought I would be a coach and a teacher when I was going through school like so many of these kids and [I] just went down a different path,” he said.
He took a class at Cape Fear Community College to be certified as a teacher assistant and then applied for a job at Walter L. Parsley Elementary School, where his own children attended many years ago.
“I feel like its more of a retirement in some ways because I get to spend time with these kids and they keep me young and up to date,” he said.
Mansfield works in a classroom with at least three other teacher assistants who provide one-on-one instruction to children with special needs.
“Every day can be a challenge to some extent,” he said. “We have kids you don’t know what they’re going to bring to the table, but they give us joy and so much of the things they accomplish and sometimes its the little things.”
Trying to determine what each students needs, is like putting together a puzzle.
“At times, you feel like that may be part of it, makes you wonder what piece of the puzzle are they missing and you want to help them find it,” he said. “Some days we do, some days you wonder what you could have done different.”
So why did he trade retirement during his golden years to pursue a second career teaching?
“I think my faith in God, my family, the belief that children are our future no matter what that child is and they bring a lot to the table, every day is a joy to be able to get up and come to work with them,” he said.
Dr. Robin Hamilton is the principal of the school. She says providing a high level of instruction for all children regardless of any physical or mental challenges they face is important.
“It gives so much assurance to a parent to be able to know your child has a specific medical need and then you can send them to school and you know the person with them has been working with them for several years,” she said.
She says they’re glad to have Mansfield serving on staff at the school.
“He is a part of our community and we are so glad he’s here and part of our team,” she said.
Mansfield says he even rides his bike to work some days and that its rewarding to have a place to go where he knows he’s making a difference.
“I think its what keeps us all going in some ways, you’ve got to have… a purpose and this is my purpose right now.”
He’s a man not only with a purpose, but a big heart for helping the students kids in his class achieve their personal best.
Because of his dedication to the students at this school, we’re delighted to feature him as WWAY and Mattress and Furniture Liquidators’ ‘Teacher of the Week.’
If you would like to nominate someone for Teacher of the Week, click here. Each week’s winner receives a $100 gift card.