‘With great power comes great responsibility’

Principal David Wiggins received a tearful, heartfelt standing ovation from family, mentors, faculty, staff and countless current and former students Monday, May 1, 2023. Wiggins is set to retire after 17 years with East Elementary School. (Cayla Grace Murphy for The Cullman Tribune)

Community celebrates David Wiggins’ 17-year tenure at East Elementary

CULLMAN, Ala. – The community came out to celebrate a beloved educator Monday, May 1, when family, mentors, faculty, staff and countless current and former students gathered to celebrate David Wiggins. This school year will be Wiggins’ last at the helm of East Elementary School, where he’s been impacting students and doling out his famous high-fives for the last 17 years.

The event, held in the Cullman High School auditorium, was organized by East Elementary PTO President Katie Smith, who said her motivation was to show appreciation for the way Wiggins has shown up over and over again for all of his students.

“He is always there to support their activities,” she said, “so we wanted to put on an actual ceremony so we can support him in the same capacity.”

Smith said the event was designed to match Wiggins’ energy. “He’s a big gesture person,” she exclaimed, “so we wanted to do a big gesture for him, too!”

Speakers including former mentors and coworkers shared memories, well-wishes and personal anecdotes of their experiences with Wiggins. There was a stout emphasis on his outlook on education as a whole, celebrating his true hands-on approach in guiding children through all the ups and downs that life can bring, even at an elementary school level.

All the speeches were heartfelt, but the most poignant and tear-jerking of the evening came from Wiggins’ first hire as a principal, sixth-grade teacher Beth Collins. Wiggins is well known as a comic book junkie with a childlike heart, and Collins’ closing remarks seemed most appropriate.

“As you leave us to start a new chapter, I feel certain that we will continue to build on the foundation you have laid here, with this parting quote as our guide: ‘With great power comes great responsibility,'” she smiled.

Between hugs, photo-ops and his signature high fives, Wiggins shared that the decision to retire and move on from his 17-year tenure at East Elementary was, albeit necessary, definitely bittersweet.

“That’s the best word for it,” he said. “It’s a bittersweet situation, but when you know it’s right, it’s right, and when it’s time, it’s time.”

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