During these cold, wintry months in Middle Tennessee, Bonnie Collier likes to dream about time at her vacation cottage in the Bahamas.
A former teacher and principal in the Warren County School System, Bonnie and her husband Charles first experienced the joy of the Bahamas in 2017 when visiting the island of Eleuthera.
“We thought it was a fabulous spot,” said Bonnie. “It’s a tiny island, only a half mile wide and 2.5 miles long. Lobster fishing is the main source of income. They have a lobster processing plant right on the island. Lobsters are just $5 each, which is a really good price.
“In 2019, we decided look at some property there just for the fun of it,” Bonnie continued. “We ended up buying a spot on the ocean and we built a tiny cottage with a big view.”
The Colliers named the cottage with their home state in mind. It’s called TennesSea Shine.
Eleuthera was a British colony and motorists still drive on the left, although much of the traveling is done in golf carts because the island is so small. The island has around 1,500 fulltime residents.
Bonnie says flights to Eleuthera leave from Atlanta and Miami. The flight time from Miami is just under an hour. The flight takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes from Atlanta.
Bonnie is a longtime Warren County educator who worked as a K-8 teacher, a school principal, and as an administrator in the central office.
“Working directly with students was absolutely my favorite part of the job,” said Bonnie. “There are hard parts in all jobs and I feel like teaching is a lot different than when I did it. Our teachers create miracles every day and I admire the job they do.”
She got her start in the fall of 1982 when she landed her first teaching job at Eastside. She taught first grade.
“We had 30 kids in a class back then and the teachers had to do it all,” said Collier. “There were no full-time janitors so we had to teach and clean up.”
She went on to teach at Dibrell and the junior high.
“If you love working with kids, you will make a lasting impact on someone’s life,” said Bonnie. “I’m so grateful that’s how I spent my professional life.”
The school that is now Bobby Ray Memorial Elementary has a special place in her heart. Not only was Collier a teacher and principal there, but she also attended that school as a student.
“It was the junior high when I went there,” said Bonnie. “I was in the eighth grade when the school burned. Our books burned in the fire. We salvaged some, but they were still burned. The gym and the ninth grade wing did not burn. I’m glad the gym is still there because that’s where I played all my games.”
Students were displaced after the fire and forced to take classes at the high school, which is currently WCMS. Due to the volume of students, the school day was split between high school and junior high students.
It’s been 10 years since she retired and Bonnie says she enjoys this phase of her life.
“The main thing about being retired is having time with my family and having time with my grandkids,” said Collier. “I have seven grandkids now. Three of them were born in a 12-month period. And I have a new surprise grandbaby, Charlie Collier.”