Salute Our Heroes: Topeka icon prepares for retirement after 35 years in education

This week’s Salute Our Heroes spotlight’s a Topeka icon who paved the way to success for many schoolchildren in the Capital City.
Published: Feb. 23, 2023 at 10:22 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - This week’s Salute Our Heroes spotlight’s a Topeka icon who paved the way to success for many schoolchildren in the Capital City.

“I’m just somebody who loves to teach and take care of kids and that’s why I’m doing this,” New says.

Doctor Beryl New says educating children has been her life’s work.

Dr. New worked as an English teacher for 12 years and added on the role of a counselor part-time before taking over for Dale Cushinberry, as the principal of Highland Park High School in 2010.

“Having the privilege to step into a family, a community that he had created over decades and be welcomed and be endorsed by him to now we’re going to pass it off to the mother you know type of situation, it just felt like a natural transition to me,” says New.

The role would make New the first African American female high school principal in Topeka. In 2017 she transitioned to the Director of Certified Personnel and Equity at Topeka Public Schools.

New holds an impressive resume being on the Board of Directors for Midland Care Hospice, serving as a member of the Kansas Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency, and being selected as chair of the African American Affairs Commission for Kansas last year.

With 35 years under her belt, New says she was unsure about retiring this year until she had a near-death experience while at work.

“In fact, I had thought about maybe about a month ago, maybe I shouldn’t retire right now but then I had a little choking episode here at work where I totally lost consciousness and actually clinically died, had it not been for my coworkers who were right there immediately. One knew CPR and one heard me what she thought was snoring loudly but I was asphyxiating and rushed in and just within seconds people were there doing what was necessary to bring me back. I was having a happy dream. So I thought, ok Lord, if you’re telling me don’t veer from the plan, I will stick to the plan,” says New

New says a career in education has thought her more than just how to be a good educator.

“When you genuinely love you can make mistakes. You can say something or do something that you have to come back and apologize for but when they know you genuinely care about them they’ll embrace it anyway and they’ll embrace you and sometimes those connections are all it takes to change the trajectory of a child’s life,” says New.