Irby Elementary’s outgoing principal, Lina Burklew, third from left, was honored during a recent farewell celebration at the school

ALACHUA – Amid friends and coworkers, Irby Elementary Principal Lina Burklew celebrated the end of her time at the Alachua elementary school and the beginning of a new adventure at Gainesville’s Talbot Elementary.

On Wednesday, April 18, Irby staff and PTA members decorated the school’s media center to look like paradise, complete with hibiscus blooms, colorful beads and tropical-themed party favors. Adding to the festivities were the tables sprinkled with flowers and miniature flip flops.

In keeping with the theme, Burklew said after five and a half years, she saw each day at Irby as “another day in paradise.”

Burklew’s husband, Brad, had served as the principal of Talbot, but he will be moving to Gainesville’s newest elementary school, which is scheduled to open this coming fall.  Effective April 23, Lina Burklew moved to Talbot to cover the vacancy being left by her husband.  Brad Burklew worked as Talbot’s principal for five years before being assigned to the new Meadowbrook Elementary on NW 39th Avenue in Gainesville.

“We’re happy for her,” Irby speech pathologist and Alachua City Commissioner elect Shirley Green Brown said. “I’m sure she will be a highly effective principal at Talbot as she follows in her husband’s footsteps.”

During the reception, teachers and PTA members came forward to present Burklew with gifts and stories about the memories they’ve shared over the years.

Nancy Morrison, a first grade teacher, said losing their principal was a combination of happiness and sadness.

“She’s been a wonderful administrator and friend,” Morrison said. “The basis of education is learning and growing. This is her opportunity to continue to grow professionally.”

Special education teacher Fern Gold said Burklew always supported the teachers and tried to understand any problems, whether good or bad.

Cindi Asmuth added to Gold’s observation by saying Burklew was never too busy to stop and help.

After receiving her Bachelor and Master’s degrees from the University of Florida, Burkley started her educational career at Hidden Oak Elementary, eventually finding her way to Irby.  She has worked in education for 18 years.

“I’ve learned a tremendous amount from the people here,” Burklew said. While she will miss Irby, she is excited about the challenge awaiting her at her new school.

“Alachua is a wonderful, supportive community,” she said. When she first started at Irby, her goal was to get to know the staff, the parents and, of course, the children. Because of all the people she has worked with, Burklew believes she has become a stronger leader.

“Some schools say they are a family,” Burklew said to her friends and colleagues at Irby. “We truly are a family.”