Kevin Armstrong, Ed.D.
Principal, DuPont Hadley Middle School
Old Hickory, Tennessee
Reverberations of Unfinished Learning
In the year of 2021, there are many key issues standing in the way of principals, teachers, students, and the families we serve. Some issues have been present for years, while others have recently bubbled to the surface. I will address three issues that I believe are key concerns at this time.
I believe the seminal concern in education is student learning loss. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended schools for the greater part of two years with its greatest casualty being student learning loss. Students who did not have the support at home to assist in navigating virtual learning sat idle for months, losing precious instructional opportunities and face-to-face interaction with teachers. This way of life became the new norm as the school year turned into one long summer vacation without the sand and surf. As students returned to school in the fall of 2021, they came to us with learning gaps, while others returned with even more cavernous gaps than those seen pre-pandemic. How will learning gaps narrow when many state standards have not been modified to address the devastating loss of instruction? As NAESP Vice President, I will collaborate with school leaders from across the country to address the elephant in the classroom, be solution-driven, and find efficacious strategies to offset learning loss in ways that do not penalize principals, teachers, and students.
Another issue of concern is the nationwide shortage of teachers. To exacerbate our students’ loss of learning, they too often returned to empty classrooms as principals scurried to hire qualified teachers. Clearly the field of education, once a thriving profession, has fallen on hard times that many college students steer clear in lieu of other careers. As the son of a kindergarten teacher, I grew up valuing the profession. In my eyes, teachers were celebrities. I could not wait to become an educator so that I could change lives by altering the trajectory of students and their families. As NAESP Vice President, I will use my platform to help restore the reverence of education by having courageous conversations with policy makers surrounding wages, compensation packages, new recruitment strategies, and opportunities for educators to have student loans waived for receiving advanced degrees in the field of education.
Finally, the third issue of concern is mental health and the lack of education and care provided to both students and educators. As a principal, I witness students arriving to campus with years of cumulated trauma and no safe space to emote or heal. These students are often left to fend for themselves in school buildings and they far too often become casualties right before our eyes. We also see teachers and staff members with built up trauma who are often overlooked because adults on campus are expected to be ok. We preach self-care, but do we practice it? As NAESP Vice President, I see an opportunity to advocate for school districts so that mental health supports are the norm in schools. Teachers should also be afforded time for self-care and receive the assistance that they need. This will assist educators to be their better self so they can be their best for the students they serve.
The aforementioned crises are currently affecting educational institutions across the country. NAESP State Representatives will continue to advocate for their constituents on these and other important issues. I believe that NAESP, as an association, will continue to be at the forefront of addressing these challenges as we work collaboratively to turn the corner on these topics and others. Allow me the opportunity to lead NAESP in this charge!
- Ed. D, Leadership and Professional Practice, Trevecca Nazarene University, 2013
- M. Ed., Educational Leadership, Trevecca Nazarene University, 2000
- B.S., Elementary Education, Middle Tennessee State University, 1995
- Executive Principal, DuPont Hadley Middle, 2011-present
- Assistant Principal, Madison Middle School, 2009-2011
- Assistant Principal, Maplewood High School, 2008-2009
- Assistant Principal, Goodlettsville Middle School, 2005-2008
- NAESP, Middle Level At-Large Director, 2019-present
- NAESP Centers For Advancing Leadership, Center For Middle Level Leadership: Fellow, 2020-present
- NAESP, Middle Level Minority At-Large Director, 2018-2019
- Board Member, Tennessee Principals Association, 2018-present
- NDP State Selection Committee, Tennessee Principals Association, 2018-2020
- Middle Tennessee Network Association, Board Member, 2005-2010
- Mentor Principal, Principals Leadership Academy of Nashville, 2015-2017
- Deacon, Lake Providence Missionary Baptist Church, 2014-2019
- Teacher of the Year, School Level, 2004
- Exemplary Project Award Winner, Principals Leadership Academy of Nashville, 2006-2007
- Middle School Principal of the Year, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, 2018
- National Distinguished Principal, Tennessee, 2017-2018
- Educator of the Year, Phi Delta Kappa-Alpha Beta Chapter, 2017
- NashvilleBusiness.net, Nashville Business 100 Leading African Americans, 2017