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Thought leader:UWG alumna named National Assistant Principal of the Year

by Julie Lineback

Growing up, University of West Georgia alumna Courtney Saxon Walker ’12 ’22 never imagined she’d be a teacher, much less be named the 2024 National Assistant Principal of the Year.

“At first, I ran from the profession,” said Walker, who serves as assistant principal of teaching and learning at Carrollton High School and is currently enrolled in the College of Education’s doctoral program in school improvement at UWG. “I wanted to think outside the box and go for a more ‘original’ career. However, as I reflected on my journey from childhood to college, the people who had the greatest impact on my life were all teachers. That inspired me to support students as others had for me.”

The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) recognized Walker in April for providing high-quality learning opportunities for students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession.

Walker said she was “shocked and humbled” when she learned that she was selected amongst more than 50 high school assistant principals – one from each state, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity and the U.S. Department of State Office of Overseas Schools – to carry the national title.

“Not only were the other assistant principals at NASSP’s Trailblazing Leadership Week some of the most innovative and inspiring leaders from across the country, but I’m also surrounded by other assistant principals in my school and district who go above and beyond for students and families,” Walker expressed. “I am grateful the application process allowed me to share what we as a team are collectively doing to prioritize student success.”

Walker’s career can be likened to a school yearbook with snapshots of milestones marking growth and development, relationships and networks, and diverse experiences. It began in 2009 when she started a six-year stint as a fourth-grade teacher. In 2012, she obtained her master’s degree in early childhood education from UWG and began teaching Early Childhood Education and Teaching as a Profession as a pathway for high school students interested in pursuing a teaching career after graduation. In 2019, Walker transitioned to administration and returned to UWG to earn a specialist’s degree in educational leadership in 2022. She currently serves on the Alumni Association Board of Directors.

A Carrollton native, Walker said she believes in connecting on campus with staff and other students whenever possible. In her current position, she has an opportunity to plug high school students into UWG through dual enrollment

“Educational experiences are often molded by the unique dynamics within teacher-student relationships, and I appreciate the efforts of the university to elevate the college experience while meeting the students where they are,” she shared. “Faculty members have played pivotal roles in challenging me to contemplate the direct application of research and academic learning to my role in supporting teachers and students.”

It’s that mindset – one of personalized learning and support for both students and teachers – that she believes helped her stand out amongst other NASSP finalists.

“A student’s experiences in school must meet them where they are and be responsive to their interests and needs. The same is true for teachers,” Walker explained. “They want to be treated as professionals and have opportunities to lead their colleagues based on their own expertise and strengths.”

As she now pursues her doctorate, she eagerly anticipates growth as she continues to hone her skills in cultivating a robust school culture, fostering collaborative leadership, and creating an environment where both students and teachers flourish and thrive.

“My job is to prepare students for making an impact in society after graduation,” Walker concluded. “I want our students to graduate enrolled, enlisted or employed and to serve as leaders in their communities in areas that inspire them. Every student should feel empowered and prepared to lead their families, neighborhoods and campus or community organizations so we can continue to see positive changes for everyone. School is more than academia; it’s empowering young people to pursue their passions and turn those passions into career opportunities that leave them feeling fulfilled and impactful in the lives of others.”

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