Empowering Students and Teachers to Find their Voice

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Principal Of The Year By Alex Mikoulianitch Megan Adams' journey to becoming the award-winning principal of one of the leading middle schools in New York City is a story about pursuing one's dreams and beliefs. Born in Wisconsin and raised in Nebraska by parents who were both teachers, Adams had an inside view of the educator's profession from a young age. She attended the University of Iowa for her undergraduate degree and eventually decided to participate in a program called Teach for America. The program gave her an opportunity to teach at the elementary school level, and that is when she became certain of the career choice she would pursue. "I realized what an impact it could have at the level of education, and [I realized] after a few years in a classroom my calling really was to remain in education," Adams said. Adams decided to direct this impact toward a specific age group, one she felt was crucial in shaping youth's view of education. "It was originally because I was placed in a fifth grade classroom, but I started to realize very quickly the impact of the middle school years and how important that time is in capturing a child and having them believe in themselves and invest in education or losing them," Adams said. Adams graduated from Columbia University's Teaching School's Educational Leadership program and got a hand from her mentor, who set her up with an interview for a position at the NYC Lab School, which at the time functioned as a grades 6-12 school. There she was able to get a job as an assistant principal, and a year into her tenure, the school split into two: a high school and middle school. A principal position opened up at the middle school, and Adams promptly applied and secured the position. Now, five years into being principal, Adams has established a routine that helps her lead a high-achieving school even further. She arrives at the school at around 6:30 a.m., taking care of any emails and similar correspondence. Then she heads outside to the front of the building to greet the students and their parents, answering any questions the parents may have and making sure there are no issues with the kids. Then come the usual rounds of the building, making sure everything is in place and working properly. Then, in the afternoon, come the meetings with faculty, something she pays very close attention to. "One of the goals of the school is that all of our teachers are also in leadership positions, so there's a lot of meetings with faculty members on all the different things that they've taken charge of and are working on," Adams said. A unique aspect of the NYC Lab Middle School is their freedom from a set city curriculum. The faculty itself is in charge of that. "One of the main things about our school is that the teachers are very empowered and they all develop their own curriculum, which I am very proud of, and I feel that they are experts in that," Adams said. These teacher responsibilities also come with high expectations, which are made known from the very beginning-the hiring process. All applications for a spot at the school are carefully considered, and candidates who stand out are allowed to do a demo-lesson, which is then analyzed along with the applicant, Adams said. This dedication to bringing the best to the city's educational system is what helped Adams achieve this year's Blackboard Award. "Our goal is that we prepare our kids for the top public high schools in the city," Adams said. "I feel like one of the things [that helped contribute to receiving the award] is really living up to the mission and the values that we're striving for in our school. We should never rest on the laurels of our school, but always keep pushing ourselves higher and making sure that we're serving our population. So a lot of the work last year was bringing innovation into our school that would really serve the children better."

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