By STACEY HAIRSTON
When students at Burnt Chimney Elementary return to school, they will be greeted by a new, smiling face.
Allison Garland, the new principal at the school, said she is “very excited to get to know everyone and begin a safe, fun and enriching new year.”
Garland is taking over the reins from Jason Guilliams, who is beginning his new role as director of operations for the Franklin County school division.
“I understand that I have big shoes to fill and I wish Jason Guilliams my best,” Garland said.
Garland grew up in Franklin County and, before moving to Burnt Chimney, served as school counselor at Dudley Elementary for nine years and as a family liaison at Rocky Mount Elementary for one year.
She said both roles helped prepare her to become an elementary school principal.
“As a school counselor, I worked with students in pre-K through fifth grade, teaching social, emotional, academic and career skills and providing counseling services for students,” she said.
While at Dudley, the school received a grant to begin the Leader in Me program, which teaches Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
Garland said the program impacted the school culture by teaching all students that they “have genius” and can become leaders in their personal lives and at school.
“All students were given leadership roles and opportunities to guide their own learning, make decisions, plan events and celebrate success,” Garland said.
Garland also has experience working with middle schoolers as she was the dean of students at Benjamin Franklin Middle School for two years.
“This was a wonderful opportunity to gain experience in an administrative role, learn the secondary curriculum and support students, staff and families with disciplinary concerns,” Garland said. “While at the middle school, I trained the staff in trauma-informed and restorative practices to help support positive student and staff relationships.”
Though the school division has not yet made a decision on how the beginning of school will look for students, Garland said she is still full of optimism and excitement.
“This is a unique time in education and life, in general,” she said, “and I know the changes with the opening of schools have been a challenge for families. Burnt Chimney is an amazing school with an experienced and supportive staff, and a wonderful community of students and families. I want to assure parents and students that school is still going to be a safe and welcoming place. Teachers can’t wait to connect with their students, whether it be virtually or in person. We have missed all the students and we very much care about their well-being, happiness, safety and education.”
Garland said she has a passion for education and for helping students and believes school should be a refuge of “love, fun and new and challenging opportunities.”
“I believe in developing an educational system that prepares students for the future by encouraging collaboration, communication, citizenship, creativity and critical thinking,” Garland said. “I became an educator because I love kids and want to help them realize their passions and potential. I want to help make learning fun, and I love putting smiles on kids’ faces.”
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