Jordan: ‘I was one of those who should not have succeeded’

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
Michael Chapman
Keith McKenzie
Melvin Ingram

By Mallory Brown
Richmond County Schools

When it comes to success, Principal Wendy Kelly Jordan sees no limitations.

After nearly a decade of administrative experience — including five years most recently at Mineral Springs Elementary School —vJordan has not forgotten the importance of a single step along the way.

Wendy Jordan

Wendy Jordan

“I always thought I wanted to be a teacher, and that goes back to Rohanen Primary School,” she said. “Ms. O’Neal was my kindergarten teacher and we were in the pod. Right next to her was Ann McNeely who became my first grade teacher, so we could easily flip from one room to the next. I think they had a very good working relationship.”

Jordan said she could remember the teachers painting a refrigerator box black during Halloween to create a listening station and haunted house. During a study of zoo animals, she could recall tracing animals on manila paper and stuffing them with newspaper.

“I always reflected back to those foundation years at Rohanen,” she said. “I can remember the most important years in child development, and they were very influential in my life.”

Jordan grew up in Richmond County and graduated from Richmond Senior High in 1988 before pursuing her associate’s degree at Richmond Community College.

“I am extremely proud of that,” she said. “I did not value that experience then as much as I do now, and I would absolutely recommend it to anybody. I felt like the preparation I got at RCC and the education I got there was comparable to Appalachian State. The study skills they equipped me with, the work load, the personal responsibility — all of those things launched me to be successful when I left to go to Boone.”

Jordan’s higher education experience also includes a bachelor’s degree from Appalachian State University and both a master’s degree and doctorate from East Carolina University.

“When I graduated from Appalachian State in ’92, there were no teaching jobs,” she said. “There weren’t enough jobs to fill everybody who graduated, so I started working at the Department of Social Services in Moore County.”

A year later, Jordan took a teaching position in Scotland County to continue her path toward education.

“I taught fifth grade,” she said. “It was far away from kindergarten, which was where I wanted to be, but after that one year — it was my husband’s last year of active duty — we moved to Augusta, Ga., so he could finish up his commitment there.”

While there, Jordan said she taught Pre-K during the first year it became universal. “There was not enough room in public schools, so daycare had public school housed there,” she added. “It was a great experience to see that developmental piece and I think that really helped when I came back to Richmond County.”

After returning to her roots, Jordan taught fifth grade and kindergarten for four years before leaving to pursue her degree in school administration.

“I really had a passion for early education because I know the difference it makes,” she said.

An assistant principalship became available at Monroe Avenue Elementary School during that time under Ed Ormsby, and Jordan stepped up to the plate. It was a wonderful experience, she said, working with such bright, productive students. For five years she remained at Monroe Avenue before making the transition to Rohanen Primary and — eventually — to her home at Mineral Springs Elementary where she was recently recognized as the North Carolina Region 4 Principal of the Year.

“For our area this is really a fantastic job to have,” Jordan said as she reflected upon her position. “I have a tremendous group of people that I get to work with every day, and they are very supportive. It makes my job easier when they do their job well and consistently.”

The students, she added, have also played a major role in her happiness as an administrator.

“The children love you so much,” Jordan said. “They make it so fantastic. If you’re ever in the middle of a crisis, just go to an elementary school and they’ll make you feel better … The kids are always happy to come to school, so even if it’s a day you’d rather be on the porch swing listening to the rain, when you get here, the kids want to be here, too.”

Like all great leaders, though, Jordan has quite a few people to thank for inspiring her way.

“My grandparents raised me,” she said. “I am a first generation college graduate. My grandfather was from the Depression era and one of the things he always told me from the time I was small is ‘baby, you’ve got to get a good education because that’s the only thing that’s going to separate you — it will make you not be dependent on a man. Make your own way.’

“I think that’s a message that many women don’t internalize,” she added. “It was a very progressive message for somebody that maybe others wouldn’t think of as being progressive.”

Jordan added that her grandfather always instilled in her the importance of ‘making your word your bond’.

“That’s all you have,” she explained, “and if nobody believes what you tell them, how good are you? How well do you represent yourself? How much do people respect you? I try to give that message to the children. You always have to be honest, for one thing, and then you always have to work toward your personal best. You need to be a leader all of the time because followers may take you down a trail you don’t want to go. I think this is a perfect forum for that.

“Maybe people don’t know how to give (children) that message, so I think that’s important for us to do,” she continued. “To tell children about making good career choices and good college choices. Some people think you can’t go to college because your family doesn’t have money, and that is not the case … Anybody can get the money to go to college, but that’s got to be something you generate from within, and I think that’s a message we at public schools need to give earlier and give often.”

Jordan said the personal conviction was, in large part, what motivated her to pursue her doctorate.

“I was the kid I wrote my dissertation about,” she said. “I was on free and reduced lunch, came from a single parent household with no college graduates, born in East Rockingham and I just wanted to have that for me. I’m extremely proud of it.

“I feel like God has really had a hand on my life,” she added. “When I did my doctoral work, I just became very aware that I was one of those who should not have succeeded based on where I came from — my home circumstances — and I did. I think God had different plans.”

She said she was also thankful for her husband and his support.

“We have been married for 19 years and dated for eight before we got married,” she said. “Next to my grandfather, Butch has absolutely been my biggest cheerleader and supporter. Our marriage, its success and raising our son together in a Christian home are by far my greatest personal ‘bests’.”

Jordan and her husband have one son, Noah.

“I think one of the things I’m proud of at our house is that we take a lot of pride in raising a respectful citizen,” she said. “We have meals together, we always talk with (Noah) about being kind and considerate and we’re just really proud of the young man he’s become.”


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