I’m a Mom AND a High School Principal

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Motherhood is a 24/7 job, and it’s totally normal to feel like your identity is defined around this one very important role. Our writers at Charleston Moms are a diverse group of women in all stages of motherhood. Though we are all bonded as moms, we also each have unique talents, skills, and experiences that make us who we are. Our new series, “I’m A Mom, and…” is going to introduce Charleston to our team and we hope you have fun getting to know us!

Meet Alicia

Once upon a time, there was a young girl who dreamed of being a teacher and a mother. And, luckily enough, she was able to become both!

Teaching came first. And oh did I love it! AND I taught Middle School. I mean, who loves middle school?? But, helping kids through the most challenging of years was exciting and rewarding for me. I taught in various locations around Charleston County from the most rural to the most suburban and loved each experience. Engaging and nurturing and motivating and educating came naturally to me.

And then came motherhood.

I was fortunate enough to be able to step away from the classroom for a few years when my oldest two were babies. And I will never regret that. Being there for all the firsts and all the play and all the love is something I will forever cherish. But, after a few years of living on one income, I needed to return to work and began the hunt for a position.

It was then that I literally stumbled upon a position as a virtual educator. Now, this was 2009………long before COVID, and long before virtual education was a known commodity. The original plan was to stay at South Carolina Connections Academy until my oldest two were in elementary school. But after just a few months on the job, I realized that I had found my true calling and have never looked back. In fact, I loved it so much and believed in the mission with such conviction that I entered administration in 2013 and am currently serving as the High School Principal to 2,600 students and almost 100 staff members living all over the state of South Carolina.

Virtual education is truly the best part of teaching and very little of the stuff that makes educators want to leave the profession. No lunch duty. No afterschool staff meetings. No fights in the hallways. No social distancing and masking and Oh SHOOT we cannot go in the building anymore so now what do we do?? Most of the day is spent directly instructing students in large groups and small groups and one on one. 

And the flexibility? Something not seen in a brick-and-mortar setting. You can eat when you want. Grade when you want. Meet students when you want. Oh, and the big one, go to the potty when you want!

No more worrying about traffic or what to wear or not feeling 100% yet still having to get up and perform. 

But what about student interaction?

The question I get asked the most. Well, I can tell you, our staff has better student relationships than they did in brick and mortar. Because most interactions are one on one or through text/email. No distractions of any kind. Kids get the help they need when they need it, and staff tailors all conversations to the particular need and not just the masses.

And our staff interactions? I can say with all honesty that I have never been as close to a group of educators as I am with this group. We, too, can have meaningful conversations through Zoom when needed. We have the time and the energy and drive to work together consistently in order to serve our students. We might have many miles between us, and not work in the classroom next door, but we have the beauty of the digital age that allows us to instantly connect through chat platforms and virtual meetings. 

So what do I, as the principal of a virtual school, do all day? Well, mostly the same thing as a brick and mortar principal but without the contact. I call kids who are truant or cheating or sending inappropriate messages to others. I talk to parents who are upset about curriculum or teaching practices or testing requirements. I meet with teachers to talk about school goals and initiatives. I interview potential new staff members. I attend virtual pep rallies and Comic Cons and art shows. I review data to determine action steps necessary to allow for continuous school growth. I talk to potential new families. I attend meetings with the rest of the leadership team and plan meetings for my staff when necessary. All in all, the only major difference is the space in which I do these things, which just happens to be located right underneath my bedroom. 

There are, of course, challenges. Most recently, we have dealt with student deaths and severe cases of educational neglect. These are never easy, no matter what setting you are in. We also have upset parents, staff difficulties, and state mandates that must be met. But in the grand scheme of things, the good far outweighs the bad, so when we deal with the unpleasant, we can get through because the staff and the school and the satisfaction are so strong. 

To me, being a virtual administrator allows for the perfect work/life/family balance. I have not missed a single first or event at my children’s school. I have not felt the pull to choose. I have felt rewarded both as a mother and an educator. I feel the impact I am having in both worlds daily. I never dread work. I never feel the need to choose. I feel fulfilled in both roles. They do not bleed into each other and I can compartmentalize both. I feel truly blessed to have found such a rare opportunity and strive to show gratitude for such a possibility daily.

Read more in our I’m a Mom AND…series:
I’m a Mom AND I’m Me, Too

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A New Jersey native who moved to Charleston in 1999. She met her husband, Rusty at Arts in 2001, got married at the Summerall Chapel at the Citadel and celebrated at Lowndes Grove Plantation in 2003. Moved to Daniel Island in 2007, where her son was born. Soon thereafter had a daughter and thought her family was complete (never say never!) Became a virtual educator in 2010 and then an administrator in 2013. In 2017, the family was blessed with another daughter, (surprise!) and have spent the last few years enjoying all that life with three kids in Charleston has to offer……..boating, beaching, eating, concert-ing, traveling, and celebrating the amazing Lowcountry!