Mary Taylor ’06MSA Honored as 2022-2023 Wake County Public School System Assistant Principal of the Year
In 2018, Brooks Museums Magnet Elementary School welcomed about 100 refugee students from across the world.
In addition to English and Spanish, languages like Swahili, Kinyarwanda and Farsi could be heard echoing throughout the halls. For Assistant Principal Mary Taylor, who started teaching at the school in 1991 and has served as its assistant principal since 2006, it was a new opportunity to share the school culture she has grown to love.
“Whether they’re from around the world or from the street across from us, I want them to succeed and to grow, and that’s what we do through our magnet program,” Taylor said.
Adapting to the influx of new students required hard work from teachers, staff and families, Taylor said, but looking back at the previous years, she also would not have had it any other way.”
“You can learn so much from people from all over the world, and it enriches us,” Taylor said.
Taylor’s efforts to create an enriching environment have not gone unnoticed. In October, for the second time, she was named the Wake County Public School System Assistant Principal of the Year. For Taylor, it’s a recognition of the time and effort she’s dedicated to making Brooks Museums Magnet Elementary School “the best school ever.”
“It’s nice that people recognize the work that you’re doing and feel like you’re making a positive difference,” Taylor said. “You can be in one place and do a great job and people recognize that,”
Taylor, a member of the initial class of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows, first came to Brooks Museums Magnet in 1991 as an elementary school teacher, fulfilling her lifelong desire to be an educator.
“I knew I wanted to teach — always wanted to be a teacher; never occurred to me to do anything else, ever,” Taylor said.
As much as she loved being in the classroom, a desire to better understand the education system led her to take a position in instructional facilitation as a curriculum specialist. She wasn’t sure of her next step—until she was on a drive down Hillsborough Street. Looking up at NC State’s Belltower, she thought, “It’s time for me to go back to school.” Then, the next day, her principal suggested she attend an interest meeting for the NC State College of Education’s Wake County cohort of Principal Fellows.
“I was like, Okay, maybe somebody’s trying to tell me something,” Taylor said.
Earning her master’s degree at the NC State College of Education, Taylor said, is what prepared her to become the school administrator she is today. In the program, she enjoyed the opportunity to work with a cohort of other Wake County educators and to learn from Distinguished Professor Lance Fusarellli, then in his first semester at NC State.
“It was just a really rich experience,” said Taylor. “They were just really cognizant of taking our experiences and blending that into the learning that we were doing, so it was fantastic, absolutely fantastic.”
Taylor said she also appreciated classes that focused on building school culture, which she continues to find useful as an administrator with a diverse student population.
“It was the foundation for everything I do,” Taylor said.
When Taylor moved over to her role as assistant principal at Brooks Museums Magnet, she worked to take what she learned at NC State and help ensure the school, which has a focus on museums-based learning, was a place where students and teachers succeed.
“I love my kids, and I like seeing them grow,” Taylor said. “That’s the fundamental piece. It’s all about the kids, but you have to be able to work with teachers and help them grow in order to see that happen.”
Taylor said she works closely with teachers to move the school forward and create a strong school culture, one that embraces students from around the world.
“At the very essence, when you get to see what’s happening in a classroom and see kids that love being here, who want to learn, and you have teachers who are excited to do their jobs. That’s magic,” Taylor said.