No student wants to be called to the principal’s office. Do you remember the stares of your peers as your name was called over the intercom – the sweaty palms and jittery stomach as you walked toward the office wondering what you did wrong – the long wait in the lobby as one by one other students disappeared behind the closed door – the lump in your throat and burning behind your eyes when it was your turn to pass through those doors and sit ….. ?
What is it about those childhood memories that can make grown men and women shy away from the principal’s office, even when the principal is often the very person they need to turn to for help? Recently I beat back some nerves of my own and sat down with the principals from all the Bleckley County Schools to find out a little about each one and what their goals are for the new year in hopes that community members and parents would feel a little less intimidated by a trip to the principal’s office.
Pansy Corbett – Director, Bleckley County Learning Center
Mrs. Corbett, or Mrs. Pansy as she is known to her students, started her career as a teacher at BCPS. She then served as the counselor before moving to a district position as part-time test coordinator and part-time high school counselor. She then moved full-time to the district office serving as director of professional learning, testing, and curriculum and eventually assistant superintendent. These days, in addition to serving as director of assessment, she is serving as Pre-K director and loving it.
Mrs. Corbett is a strong proponent of building relationships with children as she feels that learning develops from a foundation of trust. She also believes in meeting a child where he or she is developmentally. She says, “one of the things about Pre-K is that when they come to us they are little sponges. I want them to absorb everything they possibly can. I want them to have fun.”
Fun is definitely the byword at the Pre-K as teachers prepare active, hands-on learning experiences for the children. They play games, listen to music, and dance all with a focus on learning. Mrs. Corbett says that the teachers change activities every 10 minutes, so planning for the day is a huge job. “Their day is packed full, and everyone who comes to visit is totally amazed.” Amazing students and amazing teachers – what more could a principal, or in this case, director ask for.
Quent Floyd – Principal Bleckley, County Primary School
While he grew up in Cochran, Mr. Floyd, principal at Bleckley county Primary School (BCPS), spent his first nine years in education teaching middle school math and science in Warner Robins. Then 13 years ago he became assistant principal at BCPS. He served in that capacity for 2 years before becoming the principal.
Mr. Floyd remembers his own days as a student in Bleckley County and appreciates the tradition of high expectations that he and the teachers at BCPS are able to continue. To that end Mr. Floyd wants his staff to provide a rigorous learning environment for the students, so this year the teachers will create individual goals for each student at BCPS. This goal sheet will not only include academic goals but also personal goals such as learning to tie their shoes or improving organizational skills. Mr. Floyd expects his staff to work with parents on creating these personal goals and hopes that this teamwork between teachers and parents will open lines of communication that will help teachers better meet the needs of their students.
Mr. Floyd tells me that the two things that he loves most about his job are the kids and the teachers. He is awed by the passion and dedication of BCPS teachers and says “some would probably sleep here if I let them.” However, number one on the list of things that he loves about BCPS is the kids. “I love standing out front when they get off the bus, and they come by and 80-90 per cent of them hug me. They may have gotten punished the day before, but today is a new day – We’re starting over.” Friday will be a new year with students new and old, and Mr. Floyd will be out front waiting on the thing he loves most – the kids.
Michele Dyal – Principal, Bleckley County Elementary School
Mrs. Dyal moved to Bleckley County Elementary School (BCES) from the middle school, where she was principal for 4 years. Prior to that, she was the assistant principal and the career. technical. and agricultural education (CTAE) director at the high school for 3 years and assistant principal at the middle school for 6 years. She also taught science at Northside High School in Warner Robins and at Bleckley County High School. In addition, she was the Bleckley County Middle School counselor for 10 years. Mrs. Dyal has worn many hats over her 30 years and is looking forward to trying on one more.
While a little sad to be leaving her middle school family, Mrs. Dyal is excited about the opportunity to work with younger children and make a new home among a great staff at the elementary school. She is also excited by the challenge of learning about the way elementary schools work. As she notes, “I have on that secondary set of lenses, and I need to take off those glasses and look at things from a more elementary perspective,” and she has wasted no time in taking those glasses off.
Never one to back away from challenges, Mrs. Dyal is determined not to be left behind at the starting line when it comes to a BCES tradition – the yearly theme. She and Assistant Principal Jenny Brooks have chosen to rally around racing for this school year, and they can’t wait for their little racers to arrive on Friday. Their pit crew of passionate teachers has been preparing and are ready to help their drivers race toward finish line, and “that,” Mrs. Dyal reminds us, “is the real reason behind the theme…. to focus our attention on the fact that we are the team, the pit crew, that will make our little racers successful.” Mrs. Dyal has been so humbled by the community support she has received in bringing the theme to life, and even hinted at a possible surprise for the first day of school.
Carla Thrower – Principal Bleckley County Middle School
Mrs. Thrower was promoted to principal of Bleckley County Middle School (BCMS) over the summer when Mrs. Dyal moved to the elementary school to take on the principal’s position vacated by Mrs. Moe who left to take a job with the state department of education.
Mrs. Thrower has been an educator for 31 years. She taught 2 years in North Carolina and 5 years in Louisiana before moving to Cochran in 1993. She has been employed by Bleckley County Schools since that time. In fact, she has worked at BCMS for 24 years, and she grins as she tells me, “Melissa, I just love my job.”
Mrs. Thrower loves to be out and about in the school building talking to students and teachers and hopes that as principal her additional administrative duties will not keep her from being able to continue to do that. Her motto is “We rise together; we fall together,” and she hopes to continue to work collaboratively as a team with her faculty to maintain and increase the academic and athletic success that the staff and students have worked so hard to achieve.
Mrs. Thrower places a high value on relationships and knows that they are the key to winning the trust and support of both students and teachers. “I want my teachers to be able to teach, and do what they love to do, and build relationships with kids.” Come the first day of school you can bet Mrs. Thrower will be out in the halls to welcome students to BCMS.
Denise Warren – Principal, Bleckley County Success Academy
This is Mrs. Warren’s 32nd year in education. She started off in early childhood education then added special education, counseling, and eventually educational leadership to her repertoire of skills. She has taught in many Central Georgia counties including Dooly, Twiggs, Pulaski, and of course, Bleckley. She was a counselor at BCHS before moving to the Bleckley County Success Academy (BCSA) when it opened in 2010.
Mrs. Warren’s varied experiences have provided her the skills to work with the students at the BCSA. She attributes her love of students and her empathy to the wide experiences she has had over the course of her career. She says that in her work as a special education teacher and as a counselor “you see it all.” Many of the students who attend BCSA are struggling with outside challenges that make focusing on school difficult so empathy and love are two traits essential to helping these students.
In addition to love and empathy, it helps that the staff at the BCSA have high expectations for their students despite their challenges. She and her staff share the vision that all students will graduate, and while they have not reached that goal yet, they do have the highest graduation rate of any alternative school in Georgia. This year she and her staff hope to help their students connect to the technical college so that they can encourage the students to see school as a step toward their future goals.
Mrs. Warren and her team of teachers share a passion for the kids that attend the BCSA. With one heart they work to help their kids achieve success in academics and in life. “It takes a village,” she says, and they are working to be that village for their kids.
Matt Gibbs – Principal, Bleckley County High School
Mr. Gibbs came to Bleckley County from Dublin High School where he taught physical science and coached football for 14 years. He served as BCHS assistant principal and CTAE director for 3 years before moving in to the principal’s chair.
Mr. Gibbs feels very blessed to have been a part of the faculty at two great schools and recognizes that his experiences as a core subject teacher, football coach, and CTAE director have given him a working knowledge of the three areas that make up a high school. One of the challenges of his job will be to help these three very different areas – core subjects, athletics, and CTAE subjects – recognize that they are unified behind the same core values. He feels these core values are “passion, communication, relationships, competition, and purpose,” and his leadership at BCHS has displayed those values.
Since coming to BCHS, Mr. Gibbs has worked passionately to build relationships with students, especially those who struggle. He and Mrs. Rowland have met personally with students to encourage them and to let them know that their success is important. They have celebrated the accomplishments of students who do not always receive positive feedback in the school setting. He hopes to continue those efforts because he knows that “if you get kids to buy in to you, then you get the results that you want, and you can even change their lives.”
No More Nerves
After talking to the Bleckley County principals, I can’t remember why I would ever have been nervous to visit them. Each one spoke passionately about their students and their teachers. They all want to find ways to build relationships with parents and students. They have a genuine desire to see the students at Bleckley County Schools reach both their personal and academic goals.
No principal makes it through the school year without conflict, after all they are dealing with the most precious thing to parents – their children, but each of these principals revealed to me that their motivation for doing their job is the success of the students. Ultimately that is what both parents and principals want, so don’t wait until there is trouble to visit the principal. Conquer those leftover, childhood nerves and take a trip to the principal’s office. I think you will be surprised to find how much they too care about your children.