Outside of the two years Joel Petty spent in St. Paul, Minn., he has lived in Wayne County all his life. He now owns the farmhouse that has been in his family for four generations, and still helps his parents, Don and Joyce Petty, on their farm near Allerton. It’s one of the reasons he chose to return to the area, and to stay.
Wayne is his home in more than just the geographic sense. The community that supported him as he grew up—when he played Little League with a baseball glove he called ‘Black Magic’—left its impression.
As the newly hired Talented and Gifted (TAG) instructor for Wayne and Mormon Trail schools, Petty now assumes the role of mentor.
It will be a change for him, after working for nearly 20 years in the health care field as a physical therapy assistant. He wasn’t sure about any of it at first, and after such a long time in the same profession, it took a leap of faith. He was skeptical going in to the interview. But after being told he could use his own vision to shape the program (within the boundaries of state guidelines), he was sold. The support of his family as well as from Superintendent Dave Daughton, Boyd Sinclair and other administrators at Wayne has helped. Petty knows he will be learning alongside the kids he teaches. The idea is appealing to him.
“There’s not a requirement you have to work at this table or that table,” Petty says. Whatever the student is interested in will dictate what that student receives from TAG. “It’s the students’ program. We have boundaries, but [the students] will develop within those boundaries.”
Iowa’s TAG program began in 1986. Lorena Blount, one of the instructors Petty is replacing, headed the Wayne schools’ version for many years.
“It’s such a family-oriented atmosphere,” Petty says not only of TAG, but of the school district in general. “You can see the bond between teachers and students. You see it more in a smaller community. I’m glad to be home.”
Petty will still work as an athletic trainer in care and prevention for student-athletes, having a physical therapy assistant degree from Indian Hills Community College and a degree in exercise sports science from ISU. He graduated from Wayne in 1992 and wrestled at state in high school.
Petty appreciates the difference between large and small much better after his experience in St. Paul. It’s a different world, and with his wife Beth and five-year-old son Cooper, Petty feels committed to provide the kind of opportunities for his family that he received growing up. That family will grow with each new student he mentors.