WAXHAW – When Cathy Perry first started teaching, she “never thought in a million years” she would go into administration.
But a desire to work with more students drove her to take a position as assistant principal at New Town Elementary School six years ago, and Perry’s seventh year at the school will mark her first as head principal.
Perry’s dream to become a teacher grew during her elementary and middle school years, courtesy of several great teachers – and a few who weren’t so great.
“I had some teachers in elementary and middle school that I loved, great teachers that made me go home every day and write on my chalkboard,” Perry said. “I also had some teachers that did not reach the bar up to the standard that a teacher should be.”
From then on, Perry vowed to be the kind of teacher who would always have a positive impact on the lives and education of her students.
Perry attended Saint Peter’s University in New Jersey and studied psychology and elementary education. She began teaching at an inner city charter school in New Jersey, which she said helped shape her into the educator she became.
“It helped create the foundation that helps me now,” Perry said. “I have a huge foundation that I gained there.”
The most important thing Perry learned from teaching in New Jersey was the importance of communication, she said. Teachers at the school learned how to better communicate with each other, as well as with students and their parents – something she said was especially important given the rough environment in which many of the students lived.
“I feel like that training definitely helped me as a teacher, and then moving into administration,” Perry said.
Perry moved to Union County and began teaching fifth grade at New Town Elementary when the school opened in 2007. But six months into the school year, New Town needed a second assistant principal. Perry was chosen for the job – a position she maintained until March, when she became New Town’s interim principal after the school’s former head principal took medical leave.
Perry believes six years as an assistant administrator prepared her for her role as head principal. She had the opportunity to build relationships with teachers, students and parents, gaining valuable decision-making experience, she said.
“I started making key decisions (for the school),” Perry said. “I wasn’t just thinking about 25 students (in one classroom); I was thinking about all the students, teachers and parents, thinking in the grand scheme of the school and how my decisions were going to impact everyone. It wasn’t just one classroom anymore.”
Perry became the school’s permanent head principal in June. Since taking the position, Perry has received overwhelming positive response from the school and community, she said.
“I’ve received an incredible amount of support from parents, teachers and students,” Perry said. “At one point, my office was filled with flowers from parents. It was so incredible. I couldn’t have felt any better.”
Perry has spent the last several weeks interviewing and hiring several new teachers. Her goal is to continue in the direction New Town has gone since it opened, she said.
“The school has been highly successful since it opened,” Perry said. “I definitely want to continue that tradition of excellence.”
She also wants to further develop relationships with the community and explore how the school can utilize the technology it currently has to maximize students’ education.
Reflecting on her experience as an educator, Perry said one of her proudest moments was when she left the school in New Jersey and realized how the students’ performance had improved since she began teaching there.
“It was definitely something that I was really proud of,” she said. “I worked hard with fellow colleagues, and together we helped bring (student test scores) up to higher than they’d ever been at the school.”
Perry hopes to continue helping students through her role as head principal of New Town.
“I couldn’t work in a better place,” she said. “…The relationships at New Town make the whole experience remarkable.”