GREENVILLE — Although she was more than 1,000 miles from where she grew up, Diane Brissett felt at home.
“Within 20 minutes I felt like I had come home and I belonged here,” said Brisset in her assistant superintendent office in Greenville on Friday. “That never changed. This is a great community and a great district with great kids.”
A native of Maine, Brissett moved to Michigan with her husband Bruce, after he was transferred to Army Recruiting Command in Greenville. She interviewed for the job of assistant principal at Greenville Middle School in 1991. She was hired and began working alongside then-Principal Dick Laurent.
“He really taught me a lot about building-level administration,” said Brissett, who had been a special education teacher in Maine for 12 years. “He was a wonderful mentor to me and believed in me.”
For two years she served under Laurent before taking over for him after his retirement in 1993. It was then Brissett’s turn to become a mentor to others.
She spent another 16 years as middle school principal, tutoring others who would go on to be administrators within the district, before accepting the assistant superintendent position in 2009.
After 35 years in education and now 61 years old, Brissett recently announced she would be retiring at the end of July.
“People always told me, ‘you’ll know when it’s time,’” she said. “It’s just time. I want to spend more time with family.”
But the thought of it is a little bittersweet.
“A lot of people say they retire so their life can start,” she said. “This has really been my life and this is what I enjoy. I never thought, ‘oh I can’t wait until I retire.’ I’m in a perfect place with it, I’m looking forward to it, but I’m not counting the days.”
In retirement, Brissett said she plans to visit more with her three children and eight grandchildren and also travel more, especially back to Maine, where she and her husband are from.
Being away from education will without a doubt take a little getting used to, but Brissett said she knows the district is in good hands.
“Because there are such great people here I know things will continue the way they were when I came in and that’s a strong district,” she said. “I think the changes in the district have just been … the specific initiatives and things like that, but how this district works is what I came into, a collaborative organization. That is what sets Greenville apart from other districts.”
Brissett has no doubt been a huge part of that.
“Diane has touched so many young lives,” said Greenville Public Schools Superintendent Pete Haines.
Brissett said she hopes she is most remembered by is the type of person she was.
“I’d like to think people knew I cared about them, cared about them as a person and cared about them professionally,” she said. “In this profession, it’s not always what you do but who you are at the core.”