Chapman: Focus on ‘life lessons’ in and out of the classroom

Editor’s note: October is National Principals Month. The Pee Dee Post will publish profiles on each of the county’s school principals during the month.
Jamie Greene
Yvonne Gilmer
Ellen Mabe
Joyce McRae
Hal Shuler
Angela Watkins
Dawn Terry
Pam Patterson
Andy Reeder
Julian Carter
Susan Brigman

By Mallory Brown
Richmond County Schools

Michael Chapman understands what it means to be a leader.

The Richmond Early College High School principal has dedicated the last four years to helping young adults reach their maximum potential — and anyone familiar with the Early College knows that Graduation Day is no simple feat. But behind every successful student is a supportive teacher — and behind that teacher is an administrator that leads the way.

Chapman said it was helping his students is what most motivated him about his profession.

Michael Chapman

Michael Chapman

“Not just on their academics,” he said, “but on life lessons. Watching and helping students grow into the adults I know they can be … that’s the ultimate goal.”

His love for education began, he said, while spending a summer working as a team leader for the Youth Conservation Corps in New York.

“(I was) working with at-risk students in a program,” Chapman said. “The primary job was trail cutting and maintenance in the Adirondack mountains, but most of my time was spent on life lessons — teaching them how to overcome circumstances, the value of hard work, how to take care of each other.”

While growing up in upstate New York, Chapman said he spent most of his time on his grandfather’s farm.

“Long days,” he said. “The value and expectation of hard work every day was instilled in me.”

Chapman later attended the State University of New York at Potsdam for his bachelor’s degree and first master’s degree.

“The campus was in a small town between the Adirondack Mountains and the Canadian border,” he said. “Just beautiful.”

Eventually, Chapman’s path brought him from New York to North Carolina in search of a teaching position. He began teaching math at Anson High School in 1998. Six years later, he would pursue his master’s in Education Administration before transferring to Richmond County to explore new opportunities.

Chapman spent three years as the assistant principal at Richmond Senior High School before moving on to the Ninth Grade Academy for three more.

It was at that point that he received the chance to accept a principalship at the Early College, where he has remained for four years.

He noted that there were several individuals who influenced his career path, but one who stood out among others.

“Sam Griffith was a retired Ranger who trained teenagers in the Civil Air Patrol (a USAF program) for Search and Rescue missions,” he said. “He taught us the value of the man next to you, all in for the team to accomplish the mission, the determination to take care of others.”

And determination is something Chapman has carried into his role as an administrator as he displays his dedication to the students and staff of the Early College — recognizing the value of young minds, for pushing them toward their own goals, and for teaching them a few lessons along the way.

Chapman is married to wife Tonjua, an assistant principal at Richmond Senior High School, and has two daughters, Julianna, 13, and Anneliese, 9.


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