Denney brings teaching and tech background to Thorsby

Published 2:35 pm Monday, April 10, 2023

By Carey Reeder | Staff Writer

The search for a new assistant principal at Thorsby High School is over as Darren Denney stepped into the role after the third nine weeks period was over in March. Denney, who had been teaching at Helena High School before coming to Thorsby, brings educational experience in the middle and high school levels.

Denney grew up in Blount County and earned an education specialist degree in instructional technology from University of Montevallo. While at Montevallo, Denney visited an elementary school in Shelby County where he worked with younger students and worked at a middle school in the area as well.

With Thorsby being a K-12 school, the different education levels Denney has experience with made him right for the job.

“When this came up, this was kind of a perfect fit,” Denney said. “Truthfully, I prayed about it, and I figured God would make it happen if this is where I was supposed to be.”

Denney said when he left Helena the biggest thing he was unsure about was leaving the kids and the one-on-one time in the classroom. Now, as an assistant principal there are a lot more kids without as much of that one-on-one time.

Being a K-12 school, Denney said the balancing act with all the students is something you develop over time with every generation of students being different from one another.

“The kids here are fantastic,” Denney said. “Within a week, I had kids walking down the hallways saying hello, and it is nice. You do not get that sometimes in other areas.”

Outside of his lower schooling experience in college and recent high school teaching credentials, Denney also taught for three years at an alternative school in Autauga County before Helena. He is used to the discipline side of teaching as well.

“The way I look at it is like football,” Denney said. “If you know the rules, you can play the game. I try to make sure they know the rules so they do not get into any issues.”

Denney’s hire takes some things off the plate of Thorsby principal Holly Matson who took over for Corey Clements. After Clements left, Matson was left without an assistant. She said Denney is more high school minded in his approach, and her being more elementary school minded is a perfect mix in a K-12 school such as Thorsby.

“It has been great, and he has been a very big help,” Matson said. “He has a lot of leadership skills that I think will be a great asset to our school, and he is going to bring a lot to our team and so far, he is fitting right in.”

Matson said it is unique bringing someone from outside the immediate community in because you do not know how they will fit in or their work ethic. However, Matson said you would not know Denney came from outside Chilton County.

She said Denney has already introduced possible fundraisers in the future, ways to help with student parking and other little improvements he hopes to make the rest of this school year and next year. Denney also hopes to have more input on the curriculum next year. He has already begun compiling data and making folders in a Google drive for Thorsby’s history teachers to use. The content is broken down by weeks and units throughout the year and is at the teacher’s disposal if they choose to use it.

“This is not something they have to use,” Denney said. “This is like ‘Hey, if you need some more digital stuff, here it is.’ I will always be about the curriculum in the end, so anything like that I love doing.”

Having such a technology background, Denney has a unique way of shaping the COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020. Denney said the silver lining he found in the pandemic was the advancement in technology use in everyone’s lives. That advancement has made vast opportunities in technology available to those students entering the job force or college after graduating from Thorsby.

“It was a horrible thing, and we lost a lot of really good people. But, if there is a shining spot in that it is that Alabama jumped headfirst into technology,” Denney said. “The leap into technology that people may have been hesitant to do, they were forced into (by the pandemic), and I think it has helped because there is not a job out there that does not have some kind of contact with something digital.”

Only a few weeks into his new career, Denney said he has seen how close the Thorsby families are, and how close-knit the community is. An aspect of the community he loves to see.

“It is so fun, and I love a challenge. I just want the kids to know that what they can do is in their head, and do not listen to anyone that says you cannot do it,” Denney said. “The teachers have been excellent, the staff, and I have nothing bad to say (about Thorsby).”