Now, with a handful of degrees and a number of years working for Union County Public Schools, Benfield will start the 2014-15 school year as head principal of Antioch Elementary. Her official first day in office was June 13, and she’s spent the past month-and-a-half settling in and preparing for when the students return to school on Aug. 25.
Benfield comes from a family of educators, so entering the field seemed like a natural fit, she said.
“My sister has taught elementary and middle school, and my mom is a retired science teacher (who) previously taught at Sun Valley Middle School and Porter Ridge Middle School,” Benfield said. “… It’s something that’s built into our family, and I have just a passion for working with kids.”
Benfield attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, double majoring in English and education, and began teaching English at Northwest Cabarrus High School after graduating with her bachelor’s degree. Benfield has a passion for sports, having played volleyball in college, and coached varsity volleyball and junior varsity softball during her time at Northwest.
Benfield eventually relocated to Union County and worked at Porter Ridge High School, simultaneously working on her master’s degree at UNC Charlotte. Her degree opened doors for her to enter the administration profession.
“When I was concluding my master’s, I wanted to do an internship at the elementary level,” Benfield said. “I felt like I needed to see those ends of the spectrum after high school.”
Benfield completed a yearlong internship at Rocky River Elementary School and subsequently was hired as an assistant principal. She became interested in pursuing a doctorate degree while at Rocky River and began attending classes at Wingate University’s former Matthews campus, where she earned her education specialist degree and an doctorate in educational leadership.
After a brief stint as principal at an elementary school and a middle school in Anson County, Benfield returned to UCPS to serve as assistant principal at Marvin Ridge Middle School, where she remained until the end of the 2013-14 school year. She believes her experience working at multiple schools and with students of all ages helped her become a better administrator.
“I think that it helps to look overall at the focus on teaching and learning and curriculum instruction when you have that experience … (from) pre-K all the way through high school,” Benfield said.
Benfield has taken time to meet one-on-one with each individual staff member since starting so she can get to know him or her, hear about what the school has been doing well and receive feedback on how things could improve. She’s been pleased with the staff and grateful for their support during her first weeks in office.
“When you walk through the doors of Antioch, you feel like you’re in a very vibrant environment, and the staff is exactly the same way,” Benfield said.
Benfield’s main goal for Antioch is to focus on her students and make sure they receive the best educational experience possible.
“One of the main goals … is following (UCPS Superintendent Dr. Mary) Ellis’s mantra of keeping the main (focus) on the students that we serve,” Benfield said. “Sometimes it’s so easy to become distracted by managerial aspects. Our goal really is to keep the main focus on our students, on curriculum and instruction.”
One of the reasons Benfield is excited about coming to Antioch Elementary is the school is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary, and she’s looking forward to being a part of that milestone. It’s also a good time to start at a new school, Benfield said, because of the redistricting, as she and a handful of students will be in the same boat – relocated to a brand new place.
“We have new students coming in, so they won’t be the only new faces there,” she said. “I’ll be starting a new adventure with them.”