HAMLET — There was a new face on campus when Richmond Early College High School students started the 2015-16 school year as Tonya Waddell began her first year as principal.
Waddell is a seasoned veteran in Richmond CountySchools. While still in college at UNC Pembroke, Waddell was placed at Rockingham Middle School for a teaching internship. Upon graduation, the school hired her as a language arts and social studies teacher.
“I started out by doing my student-teaching here,” said Waddell. “I loved it so much that I decided to stay.”
She also taught at Ellerbe Middle School before becoming an assistant principal at Hamlet Middle School and later at the Ninth-Grade Academy.
Waddell served as assistant principal at Fairview Heights Elementary School during the 2014-15 school year. Waddell said making the transition from assistant principal to principal has been quite the learning experience.
“From the outside looking in, it may look like a smooth transition, but there’s definitely been a learning curve, as I’ve put on a different hat,” she said. “But, thankfully our district administration has aided with additional support to ensure our school year is off to a great start.”
Dennis Quick. director of auxiliary services for the district, is one of Waddell’s greatest role models. She says the duo regularly meets to discuss her new job and answer any questions she may have.
Regardless of whether she’s with an elementary, middle or high school student, Waddell said she has learned that students are students, and they all want the same thing — to be successful, please the adults they’re working with and know that their teachers care.
“Whether it’s a 6-year-old asking for a hug in the hallway or a 16-year-old pursuing their license, they all want to know that you care and have their best interest at heart,” she said.
She added that, being in education, “At the end of the day, it’s all about the students.”
Waddell knows a thing or two about being a student. In addition to her bachelor’s degree, she has a master’s in school administration from Western Carolina University and is currently pursing her doctorate through UNC Wilmington.
Ashley-Michelle Thublin is public information officer for Richmond County Schools.