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Gretna Middle School Principal Harvey Birky stands in front of the school. After 15 years as GMS principal, Birky will retire at the end of the 2019-20 school year.

A fulfilling career in education will come to a close for Harvey Birky at the end of the 2019-20 school year.

A University of Northern Colorado graduate, Birky got his first job as an eighth grade government teacher and coach in Ogallala, Neb.

“I stayed in Ogallala for 18 years,” he said. “I liked the area. I like to hunt and fish. If I hadn’t wanted to get into administration, I probably would have stayed there.”

But life took him elsewhere.

The principal at his school leaned on Birky, seeking his help with administrative tasks and pushing him to get his administration degree.

“It was a process,” Birky said. “It wasn’t something I ever thought about beforehand. It evolved over time.”

Birky drew inspiration from his father, who worked as a school custodian.

“I was proud of my father,” he said. “I enjoyed school. I liked the subject of history and government. It just really tied right in with going into the education field and wanting to be a teacher.”

After further schooling, Birky landed in Ottumwa, Iowa, serving as assistant principal for two years before taking a principal job in Red Oak, Iowa.

“My main job there was to transition from a traditional junior high school to a middle school and we did that in the 12 years I was there,” Birky said.

From there, Birky made his way to Gretna, where he has served as Gretna Middle School principal since 2005.

There are many things he will miss, making retirement a tough decision for Birky.

“I’ve often said if there was ever a time I didn’t look forward to getting up and coming to work, it was time to find a different job,” Birky said. “I never reached that point. That doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges but, generally speaking, I love my job. That’s kept me in education. My role has changed from when I was a teacher and coach, but I can honestly say I enjoyed my job.”

In retirement, Birky plans to spend time with his granddaughter in Tennessee, volunteer in his daughter’s kindergarten classroom in Omaha, get outdoors with his son who lives nearby and travel with his wife when he can “get her away from work.”

“I’ve loved my 15 years here at Gretna,” he said. “It was just time to retire. I feel very confident with the people that are here and it will continue to be a great school.”

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