Embarking on a new adventure: Former Marvin Ridge High principal takes over Union County Early College

Tim Conner

Tim Conner

MONROE –Tim Conner’s passion for teaching was originally ignited by a lifeguarding job.
“I enjoyed teaching swimming and working with the kids,” Conner said.
The Nebraska native’s love for education led him to pursue a career as a teacher, then an administrator. Conner’s career eventually led him to Union County Public Schools and, ultimately, to Union County Early College, where he took over as principal last month.
Conner earned his undergraduate degree in elementary education from Doane College in Crete, Nebraska, and taught elementary school for 11 years. He then pursued a career in administration out of a desire to be more involved in the decision-making process, earning an administrative degree from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
After spending a number of years working for several different schools in Nebraska and Colorado, Conner decided it was time for a change. The last position Conner had before coming to North Carolina was a principal position at the school he attended during his junior high years.
“I didn’t want to spend the rest of my career in my hometown in the same school I went to school in,” he said. “My wife and I checked out what was available and (decided) to have a new experience.”
Conner discovered Porter Ridge Middle School in Indian Trail. The school was not yet open and was at the time seeking a principal. Conner never had the opportunity to help open a school, so he jumped at the chance to become Porter Ridge Middle’s first principal – a position he held for six-and-a-half years.
“Porter Ridge was an incredible experience because it was an all-new school,” Conner said. “We got to build a team together, develop a theme and really develop the Porter Ridge model at the time, and that was really exciting.”
UCPS went through some significant administrative changes several years ago, Conner said, and he was reassigned to Marvin Ridge High School, where he served as principal for two-and-a-half years. The Marvin Ridge principalship was Conner’s first position in a high school and something he considers a “learning experience.”
“I had coached high school (sports) and worked directly with high schools, so I had a lot of knowledge, but I didn’t really have that hands-on type of experience,” Conner said.
As UCPS continued shifting its administrative positions, Conner was reassigned to Union County Early College earlier this year. His official first day in office was July 1, and he’s spent the past two months settling in, meeting his staff and the students and learning the inner workings of the school.
Union County Early College is one of three UCPS special purpose schools. It offers a five-year program where students complete high school and college courses simultaneously, so every student who graduates from the school earns both a high school diploma and an associate degree or up to two years of credit toward a bachelor’s degree. The school meets at the Monroe campus of South Piedmont Community College and works in conjunction with the college.
“It’s a completely different environment,” Conner said. “It’s not a traditional school, so learning how high school communicates, coordinates and connects with the college piece has been a very interesting experience.”
The excitement of the about 380 students and the support from the about 30 staff members have been encouraging, Conner said.
“The kids have been absolutely great,” he said. “They seem to be really excited to be here, excited about the opportunity. The staff has been here for a while – when you talk about building teamwork, it’s here. They have a great team in place.”
One of Conner’s goals for the school is to increase opportunities for students to learn about careers through connecting with area businesses and setting up job shadowing and internship opportunities for students. He also hopes to better prepare students for the workforce through programs that teach how to apply for a job, write a cover letter, develop a resume and handle a job interview.
“That’s been something new,” Conner said. “Parents are excited about it. It’s a new little twist to offer, and I think that will probably be an incentive for other kids to come to Early College.”
Conner, who enjoys fly fishing, hiking, kayaking and spending time with his family in his spare time, is excited about the coming year at Union County Early College, and he’s grateful for the opportunity his position gives him to serve students on a different academic level.
“It’s been a great ride,” he said. “I’ve always loved working with different age groups. I’ve been able to work with all (age) levels, so I have a good understanding of how the whole (educational experience) works.”
Find more information about Union County Early College at www.ucec.ucps.k12.nc.us.

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Josh Whitener

About Josh Whitener

Josh Whitener has been with the Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group since 2010, currently serving as the Features Editor of Union County Weekly. Josh graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2009 with a degree in communication studies. In his spare time, he enjoys playing and writing music and spending time with his wife, April; sons, Caleb and Aiden; and two beagles, Annie and Dori. Have a story idea or question for Josh? Contact him at josh@carolinaweeklynewspapers.com.

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