(Originally posted on GrantCOnnected.net’s website on October 18, 2016)
When Anthony Williams took the job as principal for Allen Elementary School in 2013, he was warned about the students’ behavior. He was told they run around and walk out of the classrooms.
But that didn’t stop him.
The summer before he started his job, he hired 17 new teachers to improve the school.
“I think changing the perception of what was Allen Elementary has been a short term goal and I think we have achieved that,” Williams said.
Before she started working at Allen, Brenda Rodriguez, a fourth grade teacher, said she was told there were more behavioral problems than there are now.
“He just really has a calming effect on the kids,” Rodriguez said. “He understands the kids.”
Now, Williams is in his fourth year of leading Allen. Even though he lives in Muncie, he said his heart is where he works.
“Just because you live in a totally different location than from where you work doesn’t mean you can’t be 100 percent devoted to your profession or committed to the students or committed to the cause,” Williams said.
According to data collected by Kids Count Data at the Indiana Youth Institute in 2015, 33.3 percent of children and youth under 18 are considered impoverished in Grant County, compared to the state average of 21.9 percent and 22.2 percent nationwide.
Even though Grant County has a high level of poverty, Williams tries not to look at it as a negative.
“We look at that as an opportunity to service and that’s what we’re here for,” Williams said. “I think education has to get back to that, realizing that this is a service profession, it’s not about numbers, it’s not about accountability grades, it’s about the service we can provide to help students. So the fact that we have the highest poverty rate is a challenge but it’s an opportunity to help.”
Because of so many children at Allen being in poverty, Williams said he and his staff have to make sure the students feel comfortable learning. He said they make sure they are getting enough sleep, have food in the morning and are loved.
Williams said he works hard to have a personal relationship with each and every student, and to know their hobbies and interests.
“I try to be visible, I try to have the students see me every single day whether or not it’s in the hallways or in various parts of the building but definitely in the classroom,” Williams said.
Whenever Rodriguez goes to Williams’ office to talk to him, he is usually never there. But it’s because he is “out and about” in the school.
“He’s not a principal that stays in his office and I think that’s huge,” Rodriguez said. “I would say he knows every student by name in our school.”
Nancy Price, a second grade teacher, said in her 13 years of teaching, Williams has been “the most encouraging principal I’ve ever had.”
“Being the school leader you have to wear a lot of hats, but I think he does a good job balancing it all. He never looks flustered,” Price said. “He’s been great, so hopefully he sticks around.”