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Each week, Education World profiles a different school principal. His or her responses offer insight into what it takes to be a principal, what a principal's day is like, and the special challenges a principal faces.

 

Principal Profile: All About Dr. Katherine A. James

 

Dr. Katherine A. James Your School:
Cuno H. Rudolph Elementary School, a Pre-K - 6 school in Washington, D.C. (500 students)

Education experience:
I spent 22 years as a teacher and five years as an assistant principal. I have been a principal for 12 years.

Who most influenced your decision to become an educator?
I felt a calling when I was in the first grade. When my teacher gave directions, I remember thinking, "Some day I will do that." In high school, I received great support from the Future Teachers of America Club. Certain teachers influenced me, and my colleagues have also pushed and/or pulled me.

What does your work contribute to society?
It creates future leadership and meaningful, contributing citizens, as our alumni prove. My work helps produce and cultivate inquiring minds, quality teachers, and community bonding.

If you're having a good day at work, what makes it good?
I have a good day when I can help bring resolution to differences or conflicts, when people leave my office smiling or laughing, and when I accomplish tasks.

How do you motivate your staff to go above-and-beyond?
I use positive reinforcement with my staff. I present in-house awards and recognition to staff members, nominate them for external awards, and provide opportunities for leadership and responsibility. We also address issues together to minimize unilateral decisions. I smile a lot, provide humor, and tell them when they're doing a good job!

Would you recommend the principalship as a career?
Yes, if the candidate has energy and persistence, is willing to give extra time, and is not doing the job to gain appreciation. Each school is different, and a principal must modify/adapt his/her style to fit the school.

What motivates you?
Education is truly a calling, not just a job. I feel invested in my work, and I know that I am accountable to a Higher Power, not just the bosses here on earth -- that helps keep me going, too!