Each week, Education World profiles a different school principal or assistant principal. His or her responses offer insight into what a school administrator's day is like and the special challenges school leaders face.
Turner Middle School, a 6-8 school in Lithia Springs, Georgia (821 students).
I spent 14 years as high school teacher; five years as system level curriculum coordinator while also teaching at the elementary and high schools; one year as part-time Montessori classroom teacher while serving as a motivational speaker and educational consultant; and four years as a high school assistant principal. This is my second year as a middle school principal.
What is the biggest challenge you face this school year?
I face two major challenges. I must be an educational leader who can facilitate the goals established by the No Child Left Behind Act and be successful with our Adequate Yearly Progress, especially as it pertains to attendance and achievement of economically disadvantaged and special education students.
Who most influenced your decision to become an educator?
I've wanted to be an educator since I was three or four years old. Numerous outstanding educators have inspired me, including my second grade teacher, Ms. Hamberger in Boston Massachusetts, Ms. Karen Tischelman-Thompson of Sudbury, Massachusetts, and Marva Collins. I have also been inspired by Jaime Escalante and Louanne Johnson, on which the movies "Stand and Deliver" and "Dangerous Minds", respectively, were based. As a principal, I was inspired by Dr. David Hill, a principal with whom I worked.
What is the most important quality of a strong school leader?
A strong school leader must have a positive attitude, along with the ability to listen, learn, communicate, and inspire others to make a difference in the lives of children.
What have you been reading lately?
I have read most of John Maxwell's books and Michael Fullan's Leading in a Culture of Change. I have also read books and articles on motivating staff and students, building learning communities, and creating positive school cultures.
What special thing do you do that you think all principals should do?
Every day, I try to apply all four principles of the FISH! philosophy: Choose my attitude, be present, play, and make someone's day. I speak to everyone in the halls. I smile a lot and I invite others to be active participants in the processes of the school.
What else would you like others to know about you?
I was the 1987 Georgia Spanish Teacher of the Year, the 1988 Georgia Teacher of the Year (the only African American to hold this title), and a 1990 Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award recipient.