Executive Director of Middle Level and Elementary Education
Fayetteville Public Schools
1. Name the key responsibilities in your current role
After serving 28 years as a teacher and principal, I am in a new leadership role as executive director. My role is to inspire, coach and grow our principals in the district as well as to lead them to be the best instructional leaders possible. Additionally, my work also involves facilitating teacher leaders to write and implement curriculum and to lead local, state and national initiatives in our schools. But by far, the best days are when I am in the middle schools interacting with students.
2. Describe either your professional preparation, experience or achievements
I have a B.S.E., M.S.E. and Ed.S. in education and educational leadership, which has been my focus and passion, especially in middle level. Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to champion my schools and celebrate the great work by advocating for and showcasing best practices for our students. My middle school, McNair Middle School, was named Arkansas Middle School of the Year in 2008 and has been designated as a National School to Watch since 2009, redesigating every 3 years. I am grateful for being named Arkansas Middle Level Principal of the Year in 2008 and 2014 through the National Distinguished Principal Program sponsored by NAESP. In my state, I was presented with the Charles A. Green “Administrator that Makes a Difference” as well as the the Roderick McDavis Middle Level Leadership Award for Outstanding Contributions to Middle Level Education by the Arkansas Association of Middle Level Educators. I serve on the Arkansas Association of Middle Level Administrators Board and have served as an officer since 2008. Since 2014, I have served as the c0-director the the Arkansas Schools to watch program sponsored by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform. One of my greatest honors was to be named National Distinguished Educator in 2013 by AMLE. I also proudly serve on the Board of Trustees for AMLE and that work has been some of the most rewarding of my career. If it involves middle level, I want to play an active role. The awards are wonderful and I will cherish each of them, but my greater calling is the legacy I hope to continue to cultivate and grow that will benefit students and adults who dedicate their careers to the success of young adolescents.
3. Describe the biggest challenge you’re currently facing in middle level education
One of the biggest challenges is the important role that social and emotional learning plays in the lives of our students. It is imperative that SEL and the Habits of Mind are woven into the vernacular of our middle schoolers. With the challenges that come up on a day to day basis involving bullying, cyberbullying, cell phone addictions, school violence and pressure to close the achievement gap, we can incorporate these important life skills into advisory as well as content classes that will make these tenants relevant. This is my sense of urgency, since research supports that oftentimes, middle school is sometimes the last chance to make an impact and facilitate the change in pathways for our students.
4. Share what you do for fun when not in school
When I am not doing school work, I enjoy traveling both home and abroad and taking pictures of all of my adventures. I also love to bake! My favorite thing to bake is scones. I have created many new recipes by inventing new flavor combinations and letting my staff reap the benefits by bringing them to school.
5. Tell us why you are a member of AMLE
AMLE is an important to me because it is tailor-made for the work that I do. Middle level is a different group of people than any other in the school setting. The administrators, teachers and staff members need best practices and research that is pertinent to their students and the needs of the whole child. No other grade band has the unique characteristics that we have and I am so grateful and so proud to be a part of this organization that provides professional development, research, learning and encouragement to our educators in a variety of ways. It is a great joy to be a part of something bigger than me and an organization that continues the legacy work that I so dearly love.