But she saw other potential teachers not getting their chance to work in the profession so she opted to move on – to a retiree’s life after 28 years in Paulding County schools.
Atkins retired earlier this year after spending most of her career as a kindergarten teacher in Paulding County schools, teaching at Dallas and Northside elementary schools.
The Smyrna native grew up near the town’s famed Concord Covered Bridge and graduated from Osborne High School.
After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Kennesaw State University, she began her career in the Paulding County School District at Dallas Elementary School.
She recalled Paulding was a high-quality, but small and mostly-rural system when she first began work there in 1985.
“I was impressed,” she said. “They were really friendly and wanting to improve.”
Her parents also bought land in the Burnt Hickory community and she decided to move to the Braswell Mountain area. She remained at Dallas for eight years before moving to Northside Elementary School when it opened in 1993.
“I loved teaching out here,” she said.
She said she eventually found herself teaching the children of former students – and even worked with a teacher whom Atkins had taught as a kindergartner.
“I watched a lot of families grow up,” she said. “I can’t go in Wal-Mart without seeing somebody I taught.”
Modern kindergartners now often enter school familiar with what formerly was considered third- or fourth-grade-level subject matter, she said.
“[Kindergarten] used to be a lot more developmental,” Atkins said. “Now, they’re smarter. They come in knowing more.”
She said she decided to retire after seeing young teachers have difficulty finding work because of lack of open positions.
“I just felt it was time to pass the bar down,” she said.
Now, she has time to spend with her grandchildren. She also has volunteered at Burnt Hickory Elementary, which her granddaughter attends.
She also still has praise for the Paulding County School District.
“It’s so accepting of new [students], and diversity,” Atkins said. “You would not believe the dedication of the teachers.”