As a longtime teacher and a graduate of the College of Education’s Northeast Leadership Academy, Cindy Miller-Walker was well-prepared for her role as an educational leader. She taught in the classroom for more than 10 years before coming to NC State to earn a master’s of school administration. Miller-Walker became the assistant principal of Youngsville Elementary School in 2014, and she has since worked diligently to serve her school and her community. Miller-Walker’s hard work has not gone unnoticed; she was recently named Franklin County Schools’ 2017 Assistant Principal of the Year.
We caught up with Miller-Walker to find out how the College of Education prepared her for her career in school administration.
What does winning this award mean to you?
Receiving this award is an honor. It means that the service, dedication and heart that I have poured into my work are worth it and not in vain.
What made you decide to make the transition from teaching to school administration?
My decision to pursue school administration was prompted by a Northeast Leadership Academy Cohort 1 graduate. She said that I would be good as a school administrator, that she saw something in me that made her feel that way. After sharing her experience with me, she invited me to attend an information session for potential Cohort 3 members. After attending the session, I was thoroughly impressed and decided to attend the initial assessment day. Basically, she saw something in me, believed I could do it and encouraged me. Today, we support each other.
How did your time in the Northeast Leadership Academy (NELA) influence you as an educator?
My time in NELA impacted me as an educator because it provided me with the tools that I would need — such as knowledge, skill-sets, and dispositions — to continue to serve and eventually lead. NELA surrounded me with individuals from diverse backgrounds who had the same desire as me — to improve the educational experience for our students in the northeastern part of the state.
What sets NELA apart from other principal preparation programs?
Several features set NELA apart from other principal preparation programs. First of all, the relationships that are formed are unique. You have a network of colleagues who support and encourage you. You become like a family because you spend a lot of time together in class, working on assignments in and out of class, eating together, traveling together, celebrating together, crying together and laughing together. There are not many things that you do alone. NELA establishes lifelong friendships.
Secondly, the passion and support of the NELA leadership and administration team is genuine. They care about you and they do everything they can to set you up for success.
Thirdly, the authentic and specialized trainings that are offered in addition to the graduate coursework allow you to learn from the cream of the crop.
Fourth and finally, the full-time paid internship with a principal mentor and an executive coach is invaluable. They support you during your internship with experience and continuous feedback. Your mentor and coach support you beyond the internship, graduation from NELA and your first year on the job.
What advice do you have for aspiring educators?
I have three pieces of advice for aspiring educators. First of all, be humble and serve and lead with your heart. Do it for the love of your students and for our future. Know your “why.”
Secondly, always seek first to understand and then to be understood.
And finally, always have the courage to have difficult conversations with students, parents, colleagues and even with yourself.