Ridge View High School
1.) Tell us about your role as an educator. What does your typical day look like?
In my capacity as an Assistant Principal, no two days are ever the same. I have many responsibilities within my school but my chief priority is to be an instructional leader. By being visible in the classroom and regularly engaging with teachers about their practice I am effectively able to coach teachers which directly has an impact on student learning. Additionally, I oversee our schools comprehensive Freshmen Academy (Blazer Academy) which is home to over 400 9th grade students. Our goal is to provide a system of structure and support for our 9th graders that will enable them to pursue positive outcomes and maximize their potential as they transition through high school. I work hand in hand with our Student Activities Director and our Athletics Director to ensure our students are finding ways to engage their peers to get involved in school wide activities and to ensure our student athletes are representative of our schools athletic core values of Service, Ownership, Unity, Truth, and Continuous Improvement. I also oversee the maintenance and upkeep of the facility which affords students the opportunity to learn in a clean and well-kept environment. I also serve as the instructional support coach for the Science Department, Physical Education Department, and JROTC Department. My goal is to make time daily for the areas that I oversee in the school building so that I am visible and kept abreast of what their needs are.
2.) What’s your education philosophy summed up in one sentence?
I believe students should have the opportunity to learn in an engaging and equitable learning space where they have voice and they are given the opportunity to understand the learning experiences from the context of their own culture and the background experiences that they bring with them into school everyday.
3.) Why did you become an educator?
After graduating college I began working in the community to help students earn their GED and other specialized career credentials. It was at that time that I felt called to go even further and I pursued a degree in Counselor Education. Many of the students I served were from marginalized groups and I wanted to be a resource to those students in a public school setting. I decided to become a school counselor because I felt that in that role I would have the opportunity to support students social and emotional needs, help guide students on the appropriate academic pathways, and help them as they pursue their post-secondary goals. I also wanted to prevent students from making decisions that would negatively alter the trajectory of their lives such as dropping out. And in those instances where leaving traditional school was the only option I knew I had the knowledge and resources to get them connected with an agency that would allow them to earn their high school diploma or GED.
4.) As an SCASCD Emerging Leader, how do you hope to have a greater effect on education in your community and beyond?
As an SCASCD Emerging Leader I hope to be able to network with a group of like-minded educators to build my capacity in educational policy, equitable practices, data-driven strategies, and engaging resources that I can use and share within my school community to move the students that I serve to their next level academically and move the teachers that I serve to the next level in their educational practice.
5.) What types of professional development (books, DVDs, webinars, courses) have made a difference in your career?
Having never been a classroom teacher, the most impactful professional development opportunities that I have been a part of have been anchored in instructional leadership. Instructional leadership is a priority for school leaders in Richland Two so annually we have professional development in this area. I am also pursuing a professional degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of South Carolina to help grow me in the area of curriculum. Lastly, I have followed Principal Baruti Kafele who is a renown school leadership expert that focuses on instructional leadership. I have read 3 of his books which are published by SCASCD’s parent organization ASCD and I am currently participating in his Summer 2020 Virtual Summer Leadership Academy which is an 18 week virtual professional development series that focuses on the Assistant Principal’s role as an instructional leader.
6.) Was there a pivotal moment when you realized your career choice in education was the correct one? Describe that time.
I can describe a moment that occurred during my first year as a school counselor that solidified for me that I had answered my calling into public education. I had a female student who was in her 4th year and she needed 10 credits to graduate. To put that in perspective, students could only earn up to 7 credits if they took a full course load. She had other barriers to her success in high school but we both decided to commit to graduating on time at the end of that school year with her peers. Because I gave her my commitment she gave me hers and we got to work. She had to take 4 online courses throughout the year. She took 2 each semester. She needed to pass every class as she couldn’t afford to fail anything. To put that in perspective, since she was in high school, she had failed at least 1 course every semester. We were up against a lot of factors so I checked in with her weekly and even daily at critical points during the year. At the end of the year she finished her coursework and graduated with her class. She told me something that will always stick with me, “Mr. Ross, no one believed in me like you did and you made a difference in my life. I couldn’t have done this without you.” I knew then that I was where I was suppose to be.
7.) If you could make one major change in education, what would it be?
One of the most monumental hurdles in public education is the recruitment and retention of educators. A week before the start of the 2019-2020 school year there were nearly 1000 unfilled educator jobs in South Carolina. Teaching is the gateway for every other career but is at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to the respect of the profession and its members. Schools and districts are fighting for a small pool of educators. Oftentimes those candidates unfortunately may not be the creme of the crop and schools have to settle for whats available to fill a vacancy. Schools and districts now more than ever are partnering with international organizations to bring in certified candidates that may have limited English proficiency as well.
I believe the issue of retention and recruitment is rooted in teacher pay. Teachers should not have to teach and pick up a second job out of NECESSITY. I know many teachers who work multiple jobs. I know others who take their 10 month pay to maximize their paycheck and hope they can find a summer job to support them in the two months that they are out of school. When the issues of teacher pay are resolved statewide I believe we will be in a better position to recruit and retain quality educators in our profession.
8.) What is your most rewarding experience as an educator?
At the end of each day I self-relfect and ask myself how did I make a difference in the life of a teacher or student and when I can answer that question in the affirmative there is no greater reward that I can receive professionally.