Tim Isaacs: Your Past Isn’t Everything


Carlie Clements, Staff Writer

Students sometimes feel as if they can’t relate to authority figures, such as teachers and principals, but you may have more in common with them than you think.

We all go through tough times and “we all have our weirdness, we all have our faults,” principal Tim Isaacs said.

Isaacs began to have a tough time, as many of us teenagers do, during his preadolescence. During this time he attended school at Meyzeek Middle School in Louisville, where he was placed due to forced bussing, outside of his own neighborhood. While attending MMS, his home life underwent an unfortunate shift as his parents decided to divorce.

“I’m the second child of five, and I think all five of my siblings and I have some sort of baggage from it,” Isaacs said.

Due to this situation, Isaacs found himself involved in dangerous predicaments with theft and alcohol.

“I acted out,” Isaacs said. “I was angry at the world, and so, if I was going to be miserable, the rest of the world got to be miserable with me.”

Isaacs began to do questionable things such as stealing and underage drinking. His mother tried many sources for help; church counselors, school counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists. Something had to be done, so his mother reached out to Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, which resulted in Isaacs’ placement at the Glendale campus.

“I remember the day my mom left me at the home, every detail of it,” Isaacs said. “I couldn’t believe she left me there.”

His placement in the home was a total culture shock, as he went from the big city (Louisville) to Sonora where they say things like, “britches and yonder,” Isaacs said. After a good year at the children’s home, Isaacs returned back to Louisville and the same life he had led before.

“By March, I’m failing every class again, I’m not going to school, back to everything. Everything was the same,” Isaacs said.

After another episode of theft, his mother left it to the police.

“My mother looked at them and looked at me and said to call the police. He’s not leaving with me.”

He then realized something needed to change.

Isaacs decided to call the director of the children’s home and simply asked, “Can I come home?”

Recognition was key for Isaacs to make the change he needed, or else, “I would‘ve been dead before I was 16 years old,” Isaacs said.

“And that’s when things started changing when I recognized there was a problem. So the first thing I will tell you, the first lesson I learned was, it was not all my fault. I did not cause everything that led to me having to be there. In some sense, you could very honestly say I was a victim,” Isaacs said.

The Home and the people involved with it were immensely valuable to Isaacs’ progress. Haywood Riner, the recreation director at the Children’s Home at the time, said, “He never made excuses about the past. He always looked forward to what was going to happen in the future.”

Isaacs put his past behind him and made actions to contribute to a successful future. He said that one of the most foundational things he was taught at the children’s home was that “being a victim does not entitle you to make victims of other people. You must own your decision making. My decisions are my own, and there are consequences for your choices, and you must accept those because they are yours.”

Living at the Kentucky Baptist Home For Children was a great learning experience for Isaacs in many ways. He was a “multi-talented” young man, Riner said. Isaacs was involved in many activities while living in the Home. He played basketball, ran cross country, sang in the choir at the Home, played cageball, and several other sports activities. He was also a Red Cross certified lifeguard and refereed his peers’ sports games.

Isaacs also learned a lot about himself and how he wanted to live from then on.

“One thing you have to understand is that you can’t control anybody but you,” Isaacs said. There may be a point where even though you’re not responsible for everything that happens, the other person that is responsible may not own their part and that can’t affect who you are. Because you can’t control that, and by aligning those emotions, it is to control who you are. In a sense, you’re just victimizing yourself all over again.”

Riner, who has worked with teenagers for 45 years, has this same belief that you should “not focus on the past because you can’t change the past. The only thing you can change is the future.”

Every person has a past that they must accept but it does not have to make them who they are.

Isaacs referenced a pledge that aligns with his ways of thinking perfectly, the Alcoholics Anonymous pledge, “not to focus on the past, because you can’t change the past. The only thing you can change is the future.”

Isaacs is evidence that no matter what a person goes through, that does not define them as a person.

“I’m very grateful for what I went through. Because of that, it’s made me the person I am,” Isaacs said. “I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. But it was a journey. And it was it that led to a calling. And I think the psychiatrist was right. I don’t think I’d be here. Because I look back now at the decisions, and I consider this to be a gift that I’m going to be 53 in April. I’m incredibly grateful.”

His experiences helped shape him into the principal he is today. Isaacs was given a scholarship to Georgetown College and received his first degree. Later he came to work at the Home before getting a degree in Secondary Social Studies education. This allowed him to pursue a career in education and become a teacher, assistant principal, and eventually the principal of Central.

Riner said, “he turned his negative background situation into positive motivation, (and) he has an insight into a troubled background that most people don’t have…and that’s why he is the principal at one of the largest high schools in the state of Kentucky.”

Anyone can be a leader and change their future if they put in the work. Every person has the ability to be successful if they use skills such as, “leadership, peer respect, focus, and responsibility, which carry over into all areas of anyone’s life,” Riner said.

Seemingly, your principal is very relatable and has been through a lot. He is someone who can truly understand what you may be going through as a student and teenager.