The Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals recently named Collins Hill High School Principal Kerensa Wing the 2019 Georgia Principal of the Year. With 29 years of service to Gwinnett County students, she was also the 2002 finalist for Gwinnett County Teacher of the Year.
What made you want to become an educator?
My mother was a fourth-grade teacher and every family trip … included an educational component. I think she taught me how to be an educator from birth. I began to realize early on in my own education that I enjoyed working with others and teaching them how to learn new skills. My second-grade teacher, Gail Gillespie, let me teach the class during a week she had laryngitis and I was probably hooked at that point.
Why go from teacher to principal?
I love teaching and probably would have stayed in the classroom my entire career had it not been for the encouragement I received from some of the leaders I worked for and my husband’s decision to start his own business. I distinctly remember in my fourth year of teaching, Jane Stegall, my athletic director and assistant principal, asked me if I had considered going into leadership. At that time I politely told her no. Eight years later I went on to become an assistant principal when I felt the need for more financial security as my husband started his business. Glenn McFall gave me a leadership opportunity as an assistant principal at Collins Hill, encouraged me to apply for the principal training program and … in 2010, I was given the opportunity to open Lanier High School as a new principal. It was a pivotal moment in my career as I began to recruit teachers and students to build a new culture and community.
Is there a moment in your career that stands out as an example of why you love your profession?
The ones that mean the most to me are where a student returns to share their success and connects the work I did with them. I had a student just come in yesterday to share that he got into UGA and to thank me for a recommendation letter and the leadership opportunities I had helped him connect with during his high school years. I also had a student stop by not too long ago that wanted some guidance on how to get into Gwinnett Tech. This was a student that had some health issues during high school and I had done home visits to help with her senior classes … The student still lives in the community, has children now and wants to continue her education.
What are the best/worst parts of your job?
I love my job because my mission is to help others develop as individuals and provide opportunities for learning in their areas of passion … I take advantage of every opportunity that I can to teach students leadership lessons as well as lead staff development for teachers … The most challenging aspect of my job are the days when my team and I deal with students and/or staff members who make poor decisions or are going through a personal tragedy.
What advice would you give aspiring principals?
Do your best at the job you currently have. Choose a mentor or several and learn all you can from them about being a principal. Look for opportunities to work in collaborative leadership teams across schools and districts. Take advantage of any training provided.
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