Watkins: ‘I want to make a difference’

Editor’s note: October is National Principals Month. The Pee Dee Post will publish profiles on each of the county’s 16 school principals as submitted by Richmond County Schools during the month.
Jamie Greene
Yvonne Gilmer
Ellen Mabe
Joyce McRae
* Hal Shuler

By Mallory Brown
Special to The Pee Dee Post

When asked what motivates her most as an educator, Angela Watkins won’t hesitate to answer.

“Everything I do, I do for children,” she said.

The Washington Street Elementary School principal has been in her current position since December 2011, but her background as an educator began long before that.

Angela Watkins

Angela Watkins

“I’m a first generation teacher in my family,” Watkins said, recalling that her mother always wanted to be a teacher but did not have the opportunity. As a result, Watkins developed her own passion for education as a young child.

“The reason I became a teacher was because of my third grade teacher, Sue Baldwin,” she said. “While I had Ms. Baldwin at Rohanen, I decided I wanted to be a teacher and I never looked back. I never even considered anything else because she was such an inspiration.”

Rockingham born and raised, Watkins went through Richmond County Schools before spending a year at Richmond Community College and finishing up at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. The principal went on to obtain a master’s degree and an advanced degree from both Pembroke and East Carolina University before returning home to begin her career.

“I worked at Fairview Heights (Elementary School) for 14 years with Earl Yates,” she said. “I taught third grade, first grade and second grade, in that order.”

Watkins was then given the opportunity to work at the central office as the lead literacy coach for Kindergarten through third grade during a two-year span before moving on to serve as the assistant principal at Richmond Primary for three more. Her path would lead her to Monroe Avenue Elementary Schoola short time later, and, eventually, to an entirely different adventure — middle school.

“They stunned me by moving me to Rockingham and to middle school,” she said. “It frightened me because I had never worked with kids that age, but once I got over there, there really was no difference. Kids are kids and they’re great at any age.”

Watkins added that what she enjoyed most was the opportunity to hold conversations and build relationships with students and to earn their respect.

For a year and a half she remained at Rockingham Middle School before former superintendent George Norris asked her to transfer to her new home — Washington Street Elementary.

“As much as I loved the kids in middle school, I was right back in my element with elementary students,” Watkins said. “I came in behind Marsha Porter, who I worked for at Fairview. It made a very simple transition because I knew how she ran a school. It was just the perfect scenario.”

Porter, she said, continues to be one of her mentors and a sounding board for support when she needs it.

Watkins also attributes her success to Yates.

“He had a lot of confidence in me,” she said. “He did a lot to make me more than what I thought I could be. He really tried to stretch me and teach me, and he’s the one who encouraged me to become a leader.”

Outside of the education world, Watkins also remembers a former boss who inspired her to move forward with her ambitions.

“I worked at Revco during my college years,” she said. “George Blalock was my boss there, and he really believed in me and encouraged me—between him and my parents, he really helped to raise me.”

At Washington Street Elementary School, Watkins said her teachers and staff are her best encouragement.

“What makes my job easy is that I have a phenomenal staff,” she said. “These are the hardest-working teachers. I love getting out of bed in the morning knowing I’m coming here to them.”

The school is currently working toward a set of goals known as the High 5, which include Learning-Focused strategies, attendance, examining data, improving lesson plans and student/parent relationships.

And with a large group of brand new teachers, Watkins also does her best to make sure her team remains positive and encouraged.

“I try to have monthly meetings to show them things in Richmond County,” she said about her new teachers. “I take them places people don’t normally know … the Chamber of Commerce does a great job telling them about Richmond County, and it’s intended for me to learn about them and for them to have personal time with me where they feel comfortable talking to me.”

Not only is Watkins compassionate about her teachers — she’s also the biggest fan of her students.

“I want to make a difference for students,” she said. “I want them to like school, to want to come to school, to value education. And to aspire to have dreams and goals for themselves.”

Watkins is married to husband Paul and has two sons — Caleb, 18, and Alex, 20.

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