Principal: ‘I have been blessed to have educators who truly cared about me’

Jim Grimsley, Principal at Dayton Public Schools
Jim Grimsley, Principal at Dayton Public Schools

Name: Jim Grimsley

School District: Dayton Public Schools, Mound Street Academy

Grade you teach: I am entering my fourth year as the building principal. We serve grades 9-12.

What is your favorite subject? My favorite subject is language arts. Before becoming a principal, I was a language arts teacher for 16 years. I love discussing poetry, essays and stories with students because each student brings their own unique background and perspective into the discussion. Even though we are all reading the same piece of literature, it can have a different meaning to each person based on his or her life experiences.

What/Who inspired you to become an educator? I have had so many great teachers and coaches over the years, beginning with my elementary and secondary school teachers in the Greenville City Schools system, all the way through to the professors I had at the University of Dayton. It would be too difficult to single just a few out. I have been blessed to have educators who truly cared about me my entire life. Even when I was going through some difficult times in my life, I could always find some sort of refuge in education, mostly due to the caring people who were involved in my education. It is probably even more difficult nowadays to be a young person. At Mound Street Academy, we see so many students who have been affected by trauma in their lives through no fault of their own. I just want to be some sort of refuge for them if I can, like so many others did for me along the way.

What do you enjoy most about education? The thing that I enjoy most about education is seeing growth and development in young people. As educators, we truly have the opportunity to help young people alter their lives for the better. Our goal at Mound Street Academy is to help young people remove academic, social, and emotional barriers that stand in the way of their goal of graduating from high school. There is nothing more satisfying than helping a young person who has had significant life struggles break down those barriers to go on to graduate and succeed in their life after high school.

What is a memorable experience you’ve had while teaching? Last May, we were unable to hold our traditional graduation ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, we decided to do individual, “mini-graduation” ceremonies with each of our 42 graduates over a three-day period. Students were given the opportunity to either have their individual ceremonies at their homes in their front yards or outside of our school, so that the graduate, their guests, and our staff could safely socially distance. The level of emotion, gratitude and respect that was shared amongst the graduates, their families, our teachers and support staff in these intimate, 15-minute ceremonies was truly remarkable. Graduations are always emotional for all involved, but these were so different than any other graduation ceremony that I have ever been a part of for a variety of reasons, including what was going on in our nation at that time with the pandemic and other things. It was a truly remarkable experience and something I will never forget.

How have you maneuvered online classes and distance learning? I really have to give our teachers, staff, students and parents a lot of credit for being creative, flexible and understanding when we went to a distance learning structure almost overnight. Obviously, there were some challenges with access to technology and the internet for some of our students, and there was definitely a learning curve for our teachers and students as they adapted to new technology and different ways of interacting. However, I am really proud of the ways we adjusted on a dime when we saw things that weren’t working well, and I think we have become better teachers and learners as a result of this experience.

How can families adapt to be successful during these challenging educational times? Even though my wife and I are both educators, I’ll admit we struggled quite a bit last spring to juggle our job duties and trying to help our two daughters with their online learning at the same time. I think the good news for families and educators alike is that we are not starting from ground zero this time around. We have all had an entire summer to reflect on how we handled distance learning last year and to prepare for the possibility of distance learning for the upcoming school year. So all of us have a better idea of what to expect this time around. I want families to know that educators will be better prepared. Although teaching and learning may look differently than what we are used to as a result of these challenging times in education, we are all still focused on providing the best instruction possible to young people.

The Dayton Daily News is profiling educators in our region as they navigate through these challenging times. To nominate an educator, email Rebecca.Mullins@coxinc.com.

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