What's her secret?: 'Teach your children to be benevolent'

Sissy Jarrell, director of First Presbyterian Day School and mother of two, is shown on the school's playground on Hilton Head Island.
Sissy Jarrell, director of First Presbyterian Day School and mother of two, is shown on the school's playground on Hilton Head Island. SARAH WELLIVER/Staff photo

Name: Sissy Jarrell

Town: Hilton Head Island

Children: Anna Shillman, 22; Emma Shillman, 20

Occupation: Director of First Presbyterian Day School

Biggest pet peeve: Sitting through long meetings

Hobby: Spending time with her daughters

Background: Jarrell was born and raised in Salisbury, N.C. She moved to Hilton Head Island in 1973. Jarrell taught at Hilton Head Island Elementary School for several years before taking over as assistant principal. She was the curriculum specialist for Early Childhood for the Beaufort County School District in the 1990s, then retired from the school district in 2005. Jarrell helped fellow First Presbyterian Church member Katie Robertson start First Presbyterian Day School in 1984. When Robertson resigned in 2005, Jarrell took over as director.

Favorite mommy moment: Anna had just learned to walk. One day, they were getting ready to go somewhere, and she insisted on walking down the stairs by herself. It was taking too long, and Sissy was getting a little impatient with her daughter. "I realized we have to slow down and let these children experience all these things that they need to do," Jarrell said. "Those moments will be gone forever, and so embrace them."

Most challenging moment: "Every day," Jarrell said, with a laugh. She said her biggest challenge has always been trying to be the best she can be for her daughters.

Stress reliever: "I think that my faith helps me keep things in perspective," she said. "Sometimes I know I have to remove myself from something if it feels too intense, and that's usually me just going somewhere and having a quiet moment."

Advice for other moms: Teach your children to be benevolent. Jarrell said she instilled that in her daughters at a young age and does the same with the children at the school. She said when President George W. Bush asked the children of the U.S. to send $1 to children in Afghanistan, her daughters did. Now that they are grown, they still give whenever they can. They bring meals to people at Christmas and volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. She encourages the children at the day school to forgo birthday presents for book donations to the school. Teach children responsibility. Jarrell said parents need to be in charge and establish boundaries with their children. "And once those boundaries are laid, it is smooth sailing," she said. "And you've just got to do it. ... You can empower them later but not now. They do better when they know what the limits are."


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