John Lassiter ’09 Named 2022-2023 Wells Fargo Northeast Regional Principal of the Year
When John Lassiter ’09 returned to eastern North Carolina to start his career as an educator, his goal was to ensure his students received every opportunity to succeed.
“I didn’t want a kid’s education to be dictated by the zip code that they grew up in,” Lassiter said. “I wanted to make sure that the students that grow up in Perquimans County got the best education that we can provide them and that means that they need the best educators.”
Now, Lassiter, the principal at Hertford Grammar School, has himself been named one of the state’s best educators. He is the 2022-2023 Wells Fargo Northeast Regional Principal of the Year.
In receiving the award, he was recognized for the creative strategies Hertford Grammar, which is located in a Tier One county, employs to provide a well-rounded education for its students. In addition to partnering with a local foundation and collaborating with the school’s PTA to offer field trips and learning experiences, the school operates under a schedule that provides enrichment and project-based learning to students who are on grade-level and remediation opportunities to students who need it.
“I want to be innovative,” Lassiter said. “I want to push the envelope, but I want to do it at a pace where the staff can be on board and can see the vision of where we’re going.”
The school community, Lassiter said, is what makes student success possible.
“This is more of a school award,” Lassiter said. “I serve some of the best teachers in the entire state, who come to work every day and make a difference for kids.”
Lassiter attributes his ability to forge relationships with teachers and students from diverse backgrounds to his time as an N.C. Teaching Fellow majoring in mathematics education at the NC State College of Education.
“It helped me understand that the world is bigger than I had thought that it was,” Lassiter said. “Not everybody sees the world the same way that I do, and that’s a good thing … The Teaching Fellows program gave me that opportunity because there were people from all across the state converging.”
At NC State, Lassiter also began to think about how to better incorporate students into academic discussions, which, over the years, evolved into a philosophy that centered on ensuring every student was involved in the learning process.
“If I’m calling on students who I know are going to get the questions right, I’m missing the opportunity for that profound learning for all students, which is what we’re after at Hertford Grammar School,” Lassiter said.
Teachers at the school put the philosophy into practice by asking all students to show their work on white boards or using a randomized system to call on individual students.
“My goal has been to help the new teachers at my school understand what it took me my entire teaching career to understand, which is: ‘How do we get all students involved in the academic conversation?'” Lassiter said.
More than anything else, Lassiter attributes his school’s success to its sense of stability, which is engendered by the support his teachers receive.
“One of my biggest accomplishments since being at Hertford Grammar School is that not a single beginning teacher that I’ve hired since I’ve been here has left,” Lassiter said.
Lassiter said he believes in the extraordinary impact teachers can make on the students, including his two daughters who attend the school.
“There is no career that makes a bigger impact on the future of our community, of our state, of our nation, of our world than education,” Lassiter said.