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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.


Principal Profile: All About Virginia Strong Newlin


Virginia Strong Newlin Your School:
Rock Hall Middle School, a 5-8 school in Rock Hall, Maryland (160 students)

Education experience:
I spent 12 years as a classroom teacher of computers and mathematics including three years as "teacher in charge," a position similar to an assistant principal. I am a 2000 nationally board certified teacher in early adolescent mathematics.

What is the biggest challenge you face this school year?
My biggest challenge this year is how to help teachers deliver instruction that meets the needs of all students in a school with reduced staff and resources.

If you have a bad day, what is it that gets you out the door and off to work then next morning?
The kids keep me going. They give back in so many ways. If I am feeling down, I visit a classroom, sit next to a student, and work with him or her as the teacher instructs the class.

What do you do to relieve stress?
I read everything I can get my hands on. Most of the time, I read education related magazines, articles, and books that give me new ideas and help me find solutions to problems. I also read books that I see the kids reading at school so that I can share their enthusiasm for books that they like. In addition, I read murder mysteries just for me! Reading refreshes, re-energizes, and refocuses me.

What is the most important quality of a strong school leader?
I'm not sure that there is just one quality that is "the most important," but compassion is certainly at the top of the list. As a leader, you have to actively listen to and empathize with problems that staff members, students, and parents discuss with you.

If you're having a good day at work, what makes it good?
A good day at work is when I spend the day interacting in positive ways with staff, students, and parents, rather than solely handling disciplinary issues. Activities on such a day might include chatting with the cafeteria staff, touching base with the teachers, and visiting students productively engaged in classrooms.

How do you motivate your staff to go above-and-beyond?
I have an incredible staff that goes above and beyond in a zillion ways. I try to keep motivation high by offering kudos, celebrating successes, and sharing quotations, articles, and book selections that validate great practices, offer solutions, and present new ideas. I try to be always open to staff concerns and, as a staff, we do a lot of problem solving together.