When it comes to their careers, you might say Scott and Kelli Dalton have each other's backs. Not to mention totally being absorbed in each other's business — literally. With Scott taking over as principal at East Davidson High School this year and Kelli resuming her post as principal at E. Lawson Brown Middle School, this married couple shares just about everything — including a passion for all things education and family.
“Our lives are built around the ‘business’ of school,” says Kelli, glancing over at Scott and laughing. “We don't know what it's like not to have school and kids as the primary focus of everything we do. Being married for 16 years, we feel blessed to share the same career path because it allows us to support and encourage each other. We understand what the other person is going through — good and bad — and can bounce ideas off of each other. It's great because I think we complement each other really well.”
Between the two of them, Scott and Kelli have 34 years of combined educational experience. Scott, who started his teaching and coaching career 19 years ago, comes from a family of teachers. While for 15 years, Kelli's academic interests have been fueled by her burning desire to leave a lasting, positive impact on children and her community.
“Growing up with both parents being teachers, in a house where education was extremely important, I was heavily influenced by my environment because I witnessed first-hand the influence teachers could have on a student's life,” Scott said. “My mom and dad always had former students coming up to them years later thanking them for the help and support they gave them when they were in school. I saw that connection and knew I wanted to have that kind of influence on kids, too.”
With two school-age children of their own, as well as having taught in the classroom, the Daltons share a unique perspective on the challenges facing students and teachers.
“There are so many stressors on kids and teachers these days that detract from the actual joy of learning,” Kelli explained. “From social media to a troubled economy, students of all ages are juggling a lot pressure before they even make it into the classroom. As principal, it's my job to give teachers the support they need so in turn they can totally focus on each student and provide a culture where kids can learn and enjoy themselves.”
This year when the bell rings on the first day of class, like numerous incoming freshmen at East Davidson, Scott admits that he, too, will still be learning his way around. Having made the transition from West Davidson to East, he is excited about meeting all the new students, as well as seeing all the teachers in action.
“Being a principal means you have to be 'on' 24/7,” said Scott. “I worry about each of these kids just like they were my own. I am invested in their success and I want the best for them, just like I do my staff. Having been a coach, I am able to recognize a person's strengths and talents. I know what it takes to cultivate that talent. It takes time and patience. I'm not here to just make sure we have good test scores. I'm here to ensure we produce good people who will one day go on to do great things in their community and in life.”
And like any good partner, Kelli is right there, echoing Scott in his vision for students' futures.
“As educators and parents, we have a social obligation to serve as role models for our children,” she said. “I want to motivate students to strive for the very best out of life. To challenge themselves, to push hard no matter what struggles they might face. Part of my role as principal is to help point them in the right direction and hopefully that direction is up and on to greater things.”
Do you know a teacher or principal in the Davidson County School System that has made a positive impact on students life? Share your story idea with Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org.