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New CLES principal happy to be back at an elementary school

POSTED: August 17, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Zac Taylor/Barrow County News

Shawanna Stephens was hired earlier in the summer as the new CLES principal.

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It wasn’t that long ago that County Line Elementary’s new principal had zero thoughts on ever being a principal or even leaving her hometown county, Jackson.

But events have a way of changing ones goals, and now Shawanna Stephens feels at home, even if she’s only just started her first job in the Barrow County School System.

"Even though I’m not from here, I kind of feel like I’ve come home," she said. "I’m back in the elementary school."

And back in administration.

Stephens grew up in Jackson County and attended Jackson County High before moving on to the University of Georgia. When she earned her degree she was back in the schools, first at elementary schools and then at middle schools in Jackson County. In all, she spent 23 years in Jackson County.

She was an elementary school teacher for seven years, a middle school teacher for nine and a middle school assistant principal for another 11.

But before the start of last season the school she had helped start as an assistant principal in 2007, King’s Bridge Middle, closed due to a lack of students.

All of a sudden, Stephens was back in the classroom, at her former middle school West Jackson, teaching special ed, co-teaching science and helping out with sixth grade language arts.

"I did anything they needed me to do," she said. "It was a great learning experience to have a fresh perspective on teaching – it was really good for me."

But it also proved how much she liked being in administration, and she said she was determined to get back to that position, whether it was as an assistant principal or a principal, and even if it was outside of the only county she had ever taught at.

That’s how she ended up being approved as the new principal at County Line Elementary early in the summer to replace former head Jeff Koch, who resigned from the system.

It’s her first principal position, but she’s not planning to rock the boat.

"The school is so good, with a veteran faculty," she said. "The passion these teachers have is incredible.

"I want to make sure teachers have whatever it is they need. If it’s not broke don’t fix it."

Stephens has even made a big personal decision to show her respect for the faculty she now leads: She moved her younger son to the school from Jackson County (her older son is currently at East Jackson).

Her appreciation for County Line goes beyond the faculty and staff, however. She’s also enamored with the school’s history and tradition; the fact that there’s a class photo from the late 1800s on display near the front of the school. The school is one of the oldest in the county.

"The building might be newer, but the tradition is still very much alive," Stephens said. "It’s really good for the county and the kids."

Stephens just wants to do her part to be a good steward of what she sees as an already successful school.

 

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amm: August 22, 2014 9:35 a.m.

Mrs. Stevens was the perfect choice for CLES and just exactly what we needed!



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