Shirley Gibson, 70, was Parent Teacher Association president, a Miami-Dade police officer and eventually the first mayor of Miami Gardens.
Like many mothers, she always tried to give lessons to her children, especially her daughter, Tiffany Wimberly-McMillan, who teaches at Parkway Elementary School in Miami Gardens.
“I hear my daughter speaking many days and I go, ‘Oh my God, I hear myself,’ ” Gibson said.
Her daughter agreed, recalling her mother’s go-to expression: “When someone shows you who they are, you need to believe them.”
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Wimberly-McMillan says that lesson has remained with her in adulthood. “I try to take all the things my mom instilled in me and try to give them to my students,” she said. “One thing she always taught me was to be fair.”
In raising her daughter and son, Robert Wimberly, Gibson said that she never tried to force a parenting style on them; she dealt with both of them as individuals.
“Girls sometimes will challenge the other woman in the house; the men [in our house] didn’t do that,” Gibson said. “That helped me realize how I had to parent them.”
It also helped guide Gibson when her daughter decided to be a police officer, something that Wimberly-McMillan said her mother never wanted her and her brother to do. Eventually, she decided to return to school to study elementary education to try to reach kids before their lives are negatively impacted.
“I said, ‘Maybe if I can help children in the beginning, it will help them when they’re an adult,’ ” Wimberly-McMillan said. “I didn’t believe that the system rehabilitated them.”
Giving back was a lesson Wimberly-McMillan learned early on from her mother, who valued serving her community. Gibson said she also tries to point out the unique leadership opportunity that PTAs can give women.
“You gain so much knowledge and you learn how to lead; when the time came for you to be called upon, you were prepared,” Gibson said.
Now she sees that leadership in her daughter.
She said Wimberly-McMillan’s vocal nature carries over into her discipline as a teacher. In fact, Wimberly-McMillan had to ban her mother, known as the “good cop,” from visiting her classroom.
“I miss her coming out, but I have a system and I try to stick to my system,” Wimberly-McMillan said. “Sometimes we’d bump heads because she’s going to always take the student’s side.”
One thing they continue to agree on is raising McMillan’s 2-year-old daughter, Morgan. Gibson takes a hands-off approach and sees a lot of the lessons she preached being passed down to the next generation.
“One of my philosophies is that you don’t know what kind of parent you are until your children are on their own,” Gibson said.
And now that she’s married and has her daughter, Wimberly-McMillan joked and said she’s also 2 years old, because raising her daughter has been a completely new experience.
“When I became a mom, I completely grew up,” Wimberly-McMillan said. “That’s when all the advice — it clicked, and I put it into motion because I knew I was responsible for someone else.”
And as she passes lessons on to her daughter and her students, she always remembers the first example of leadership and humility she was introduced to — her mom.
“I just think about all the things she did and all the sacrifices she made, and I said, ‘That’s the type of educator I’ll be — the type of parent I want to be,’ ” Wimberly-McMillan said.