Valerie Williams studied business administration at Delta State University with the goal of opening her own business, but she ended up finding her niche in school administration.
Now in her third year as assistant principal at Leflore County High School, she says she remains passionate about the work.
“We work very well as a family, and I can honestly say that we treat each other like family,” she said. “The administration and staff are wonderful there.”
Williams, 40, was born in Clarksdale and graduated from Clarksdale High School in 1996.
She completed her business degree in December 2000 but had trouble finding a job. Having been interested in education as a way of helping others, she took a job in the Quitman County School District as a substitute teacher while also working at Kroger.
“I was trying to weigh my options — work in a business, start a business or continue in education,” she said. “So because I loved what I was doing working with those children, that’s how I ended up going back to school to get my master’s degree and get certified.”
She earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Delta State in May 2005 and is now working on a doctorate in educational leadership and administration at Jackson State University, which she plans to finish in 2020.
She said her initial thought when she first entered a classroom as a teacher was “What have I gotten myself into?” But she believed she had the discipline for it.
“I had just graduated from college. I was 22. And I went to work in a high school where the boys thought that they could try to date me, because I was looking young just like they were looking young,” she said. “But I knew I could handle the job.”
After working as a teacher and technology facilitator in the Quitman County district, Williams moved up to assistant principal of Quitman County Middle School.
Early on as an administrator, it took some time to get used to managing adults instead of students, especially for someone in her 20s who was overseeing faculty members who were often older and more experienced. But Williams said she was able to earn their respect quickly.
“I’m a people person, and I love to lead. So that wasn’t an issue,” she said. “Once they realized that I was there for them as well as the kids, they didn’t take long to adapt to me.”
In 2008, she moved to Greenwood, where she worked as principal of East Elementary for a year before spending a few years in school consulting with Bailey Education Group and Core Learning.
She said the paperwork required in a school job could be frustrating, but she never had a problem developing relationships with students.
“What I learned about being in education is that if students know that you care for them — sincerely care for them — they’re going to do whatever you want them to do,” she said. “And I have not had a problem with students since I’ve been in education.”
She re-entered the Leflore County Schools in 2014 and served as assistant principal at Amanda Elzy High for two years before moving to her current job.
She also met her husband, Keith, after moving to Greenwood, and they have a 5-year-old son, Carson.
Away from the school, she enjoys spending time with family and friends and participating in activities at Mount Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church.
Once she’s finished with her doctorate, which she’s working on partly online and partly at night, her next goal is to lead a department at a university. But for now she’s enjoying where she is.
“Working at Leflore County High School has been one of the best experiences I’ve had since being in Greenwood,” she said.
•Contact David Monroe at 581-7236 or firstname.lastname@example.org.