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Assistant principal happy to have found the right job

By Joanie Morris
For the Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS — As the new assistant principal at Kannapolis Middle School, Bridgette Reese is doing a job she feels she is meant to do.
It wasn’t always the job she thought she’d have, though.
Reese graduated from N.C. Central University in 1995 with a business degree and a 4-month-old baby. A single mother, she needed a job — any job — to be able to support herself and her son, Alexander.
“When I was looking for something to do, it didn’t matter to me what it was,” she said.
Looking for a job in marketing or business management, Reese decided that in the meantime, she’d apply to be a substitute teacher in the school system where she was educated.
While at the Kannapolis City Schools central office filling out an application, someone told her about a receptionist position available at Kannapolis Middle School.
“You need to look for a job before you look for the job,” said Reese, echoing the words of her friend, boss and mentor Chip Buckwell, principal at Kannapolis Middle.
She applied and was hired as the receptionist at the middle school. She never left.
“It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Reese said recently.
She discovered a passion for helping students. She was receptionist for a year at Kannapolis Middle before taking a job as teaching assistant there. After another year, she applied for the lateral entry program to become a teacher.
She worked part time as a teacher until the following year, 1998, when she began teaching full time.
“I felt very blessed things were happening the way they were supposed to,” she said.
During the time she was teaching, Reese’s husband got transferred to a job in Horry County, S.C., best known for Myrtle Beach.
With a passion for children and a dedication to doing her best, Reese decided while in Horry County to apply for a spot in the master’s in educational leadership program offered through the University of South Carolina in partnership with teachers in Horry County.
She was accepted.
“I felt like that was for me,” she said. During the program, Reese moved back to Kannapolis with her family but continued the courses. She received her master’s degree in 2010.
“I felt like it was all by design,” Reese said. “My steps were ordered.”
Reese admits that, earlier in life, she never thought of teaching as a career. She can’t imagine herself doing anything else now.
“I adapted,” she said. “I got here, and felt like this is where I’m supposed to be.
Buckwell‘s first year as principal at Kannapolis Middle School was the year Reese left to go to Horry County. But that’s not the first interaction he had with her. He was at A.L. Brown High School when Reese was a student.
“I kept recruiting her and trying to get her back here” after Reese moved to South Carolina, Buckwell said. He knew passion, desire and talent when he saw it, he said, and he wanted to get Reese and those qualities back to Kannapolis schools.
“I think the biggest thing about Bridgette is that she wants to be good at what she does,” Buckwell said. “When she’s given something to do she works hard at it, but she also listens to how she can get better.”
He said Reese is a gem for Kannapolis students because of her desire to make sure that every student does well.
“She’ll go the extra mile to help a kid,” Buckwell said. “She just has a passion for children.”
Buckwell said Reese wants to see students succeed and is a genuine fit for Kannapolis Middle School — even though getting the job wasn’t easy for her. More than 25 people applied for the assistant principal position and only 10 were interviewed.
“There were probably six people who could have done this job without question,” Buckwell said. The list included former assistant principals and people who could have done the job easily.
“She set herself apart when she talked about children and when she worked with us here at the school with the kids in the past,” he said. “You get what you see with Bridgette.”
One part of the interview process included seven staff members joining school administrators to interview candidates. That may seem an advantage for someone already working at the school, but Buckwell said it can be a disadvantage.
“When it got down to the end and we were eliminating folks that were being interviewed, she came out clearly ahead on our staff’s evaluations,” said Buckwell. “That’s a lot of pressure when your peers are interviewing you and you still come out on top. They know all your idiosyncrasies. It was very competitive.”
Pam Carter, finance officer at Kannapolis Middle, is one staff member who knows Reese well. Their offices are side by side and she watched Reese work last year when the former assistant principal was out and Reese stepped up.
“It’s just unreal to watch her with the kids,” Carter said. “She’s awesome. Our staff is very lucky.”
Reese plans to spend the year doing everything she can to help the students and staff at Kannapolis Middle School. From teacher observations to scheduling and discipline, she said she’ll do whatever it takes to help the students succeed and the school run smoothly.
She already knows a lot about the school, from the receptionist’s desk through the classroom and into administration. But she’s not finished with her education.
“I plan on learning a lot,” she said. “Doing what I can do to make sure things are run the way they need to be run.”
Joanie Morris is a freelance reporter. She can be reached at 704-797-4248 or news@salisburypost.com.

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