Curiosity took Kelly Wilson away from education for a couple years, and love of the profession brought her back.
The soon-to-be new principal of the Academy for Arts, Science and Technology [AAST] says being an educator is in her blood.
“My parents were educators, my aunts and uncles were educators, and my neighbors were educators,” she says.
“I babysat for my teachers’ children in high school, and my first outing as an infant was to a high school football game.”
Wilson’s mother was a third grade teacher when the Spartanburg native was growing up, and her father was an athletic coach.
“Teachers are my tribe,” she says.
After being the assistant principal of AAST for the last couple of years, Wilson is ready for the challenge of moving into the spot vacated by Robin Jones.
Jones is now the executive director of an instructional program for the Charleston County School District.
“That gives me the opportunity for personal and professional growth, plus it puts me closer to my home town and closer to my mother who is getting older,” Jones says about her new job.
Jones says Wilson is the ideal person to take over the job as principal.
“She’s a natural fit. She’s impassioned and she has heart. God gives us gifts and talents, and her heart combined with her background is a perfect fit.”
Wilson, who has three children of her own, ages 17, 14 and 11, makes it a point to personally know the AAST students.
If someone throws out a random name, it’s more than likely she knows who that student is, what grade he’s in, and maybe even how he recently tweaked his hair.
She eats lunch with the students, and she visits their classrooms. She goes to school plays and honor society inductions.
She makes it a point to be present in the lives of AAST students.
After graduating from Clemson, Wilson taught math at Lugoff-Elgin High School in Lugoff, and then taught math and computer science at Davie County High school in Mocksville, North Carolina.
She was then offered the opportunity to leave education, and curiosity took her to Companion Technologies Inc. in Durham, North Carolina, where she was the implementation coordinator.
“When I was recruited by the medical software company, I was really curious because I’d always been around teachers.
“I wanted to see what it would be like in another job. There was a lot of travel involved, and I enjoyed it,” she says about those four years.
Wilson stayed home raising her family for a few years, and then “felt the calling” to go back to teaching.
She taught math and was an AVID elective teacher at Conway High School, and then went on to be an instructional coach there.
From Conway, her career took her to Forestbrook Middle School, also as an instructional coach, where she was closer to her own children during the school day.
In 2016, she came to AAST.
Wilson says coming back to school after being away from education for several years was an eye opener.
Students changed, and teachers and teaching changed.
“People who are in it continuously might not notice the changes, but for me, being absent from the profession, I see how technology has changed the way we teach.”
She remembers that when she started her career, teachers were excited to have graphing calculators.
“Now,” she says, “Every kid has a device.”
Back in the day, teaching was about a teacher standing in front of the classroom and lecturing while students took notes.
Then, Wilson says, the students were tested on that information that was presented by the teacher.
“It’s different now,” she says. “The students are involved in the discovery, they’re engaged.
“And, that teacher/student relationship is so important. When students know the teacher cares about them, they will push themselves to limits they didn’t know they could reach.”
When Wilson isn’t at work, she spends her time with her children. They are runners, so the family spends a lot of time at the track.
Wilson hikes, she travels, she cooks, and when she has time to read, it’s generally non-fiction, especially biographies.
Active at First Presbyterian Church, she’s been a deacon, has taught Sunday school, has been on the minister’s search committee, and has worked with the youth.
She’s looking forward to the smooth transition to AAST principal which will officially begin in July.
“I have big shoes to fill,” she says.