Thomas principal keeps it positive
Thomas Magnet School Principal Tracy Watson fist-bumps a fourth grader as kids file through the front door the first day of school.
A fist bump, also known as a bro-fist, power five, PIB as in pound it bro, or pibbys, is a gesture familiar to most kids.
For old-schoolers, the fist-bump has the same meaning as a handshake or high five.
Watson said fist-bumps or a cheery good morning can be an intangible incentive. Watson's school of nearly 400 high-achieving Tigers will see more daily affirmations.
"It makes them want to get up and come to school . . . learn to enjoy their education," Watson added.
Though new to the Thomas principal's office, Watson is a hometown girl. As a product of the Bedford County School System, she can literally share with students that she's been where they are right now.
But now Watson has 18 years of educational experience to her credit. This seasoned educator has learned that school life is about more than the paperwork on a principal's desk.
"What matters the most . . . each kid having someone in the school building that makes each kid feel loved," Watson said.
"Kids don't learn from people they don't like."
Watson was quoting one of her favorite motivational speakers in the field, the late Rita Pierson of Texas. She often watches Pierson's videos, because she elevates students to "champions."
"It's all about the love of the kids," Watson said. "Most educators want kids to feel loved and appreciated."
Watson admits being a new principal can be somewhat overwhelming. After all, you're the person essentially responsible for everything.
She doesn't consider it a work hazard, but a blessing.
"Every school's job is to educate every kid that comes into the building."
Brushing back her long brown hair, she said becoming a principal wasn't her first career goal. But now she can't imagine doing anything else.
"It's surreal. I never thought that I would be an educator. I was a psych and English major!"
Watson's resume includes serving as assistant principal of Cascade High and Thomas schools. She was also a guidance counselor at Cascade Elementary for 14 years.
Watson said two of her own professional mentors were former teachers, Sharon Edwards and Martha Fisher. Edwards now works as Community High graduation coach while Martha Fisher, whom Watson considers a "blessing to Cascade," is retired.
But this educator will tell you that the greatest promoter in her life goes all the way back to high school. That person is Harris Middle School principal and her husband, Neil Watson.
Team in life, work
These days, the two principals get to attend events and meetings together. Dual education careers seem to work for them.
"When I was at the high school level and he was at the middle school level, we never saw one another," she said.
Watson will admit their mirrored education careers have been interesting. Thomas students were accustomed to addressing "Mr. Watson," as principal, when he was there a few years ago.
"That's taken some getting use to," said "Mrs. Watson," with a smile.
While a lot of their peers now work for other school systems, the Watsons have stayed committed to their hometown. The two educators, who share a lot of ideas, remain ever positive about education.
"We can continue to build on the good," she said.