“Never acknowledge the glass ceiling.” This is a motto one 1966 Leesville High School graduate has used to guide her life.
"I would not be the person I am today if not for growing up in a small town culture like Leesville,” Sherry Lee Brock said.
The values and ethics she learned grounded and guided her throughout her personal and professional life.
“I am a very positive person,” Brock said. “I always believed I could accomplish anything as long as I did what was right and worked very hard every day.
“My optimistic attitude and unwavering outlook on life came from the secure and supportive atmosphere in which I grew up."
After graduating from Leesville High School in 1966, Brock attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree in 1970. Her education certification followed in 1971, and her Masters Degree in Education Administration and Supervision in 1979.
Ever expanding her horizons, Brock became an Education Specialist in Reading in 1981.
Her motto (“Never acknowledge the glass ceiling!”) applied not only to her own life, but for women everywhere.
It served her well during a 44-year career in public education in the East Baton Rouge School District. Brock was one of the earliest female administrators in the school district, beginning as the assistant principal at Crestwood Middle School, then as principal of Park Forest Middle.
After that, Brock served 16 years as principal of Westdale Middle School.
During this time, her successful leadership was recognized not only within the education community but beyond into larger spheres of influence.
In 1998 and again in 2005, she was chosen as District Principal of the Year. In 2005, she was named Louisiana Principal of the Year and chosen as a finalist for National Principal of the Year – notably the only principal from Louisiana to achieve this honor thus far.
Brock was awarded the "Esprit de Femme Award" in 2013 by the Louisiana State University Women's Center. This award is bestowed annually to a person who has made exceptional efforts toward the advancement of women and who elevates the status of women in the community through the contribution of the arts, education, healthcare, business, industry, charity and civic engagement that focus on the needs of women.
Brock has served on the "Esprit de Femme Award" committee, acting as chairperson in 2014.
During her career as a school administrator, Brock was known for her sound decision-making, management skills and strong take-charge approach.
Brock is widely recognized as an admirable role model for teachers aspiring to become administrators. "I am very proud to be known as someone who ‘raises principals and school administrators,’" she said.
Brock has trained and mentored over 100 educators who have advanced at all levels under her leadership. "I am very proud that I can pass on this legacy with excitement and vigor to the next generation of educational leaders,” Brock said.
She retired in 2004, however, briefly. As subsequent years unfolded, Brock again and again returned to administrative work within only one day of retirement!
For the past four years she has been working in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System Human Resources Department in Educational Leadership. "This position is definitely my dream job,” Brock said. “I mentor, train and advise principals and school administrators at all levels. I feel I have truly made a difference.”
As impressive and satisfying as Brock’s professional life has been, so has her personal life been a fulfilling and exciting journey.
A widow since 2014 when her husband, Jay Brock, passed away, her family life is filled not only with two wonderful stepchildren and five beautiful grandchildren, but also two rescue dogs, Breezy and Annie.
With her “second passion” being pet rescue, Brock has served on two rescue boards – YELP and Looking for Love Dog Rescue in Baton Rouge.
In the midst of this flurry of family and professional activity, Brock also enjoys cooking. "I love to cook! I learned to love cooking at an early age from my mother, grandmother, and my dear friend Beverly Fertitta Byrd. Beverly is a great chef! She would cook for me and share her wonderful recipes,” Brock said.
She was born in the Byrd Clinic in Leesville and grew up in a houseful of strong, independent females. Her mother, Iva M. Lee, a GS14, was Director of Supply at Fort Polk for many years.
Her grandmothers, aunts, cousins and sister had a strong influence which contributed to the development of her personality and moral character. Her father, Van M. Lee, was a kind and honorable man who taught her the importance of loyalty, the value of a strong work ethic, and the significance of a "good name."
Her sister, Dana Lee Welborn, taught her the lessons of kindness and goodness in all things.
As she grew older, Brock was fortunate to become close friends with a group of friends whom she calls her “truly loving sisters.” They include Tandy Bell Schwartz, Gwen Hayes Clove, Brenda Schwartz Bush, Beverly Fertitta Byrd and Nancy Ourso Wamsgaham.
"They are the kind of friends who love and support you all of your life,” Brock said. “At the most difficult times of my life, these ladies were the first to arrive and never left my side. Especially in 2014 when my husband Jay passed away."
To young women, Brock stresses the importance of having a close-knit group of women friends.
She believes that women can change the world but emphasizes that men are not the enemy. “You must learn to think smart and quickly when engaging men in the workplace,” Brock said.