Award-winning principal has lofty goals for her school this year
Judy Grooms makes it a point to go above and beyond as a public school educator.
The principal of Emmett E. Cope Middle School recently received an award after three decades of dedication as a Louisiana educator — Louisiana Middle School Principal of the Year.
Also being named regional principal of the year, the award, she said, makes every minute of her job worth it.
“It was definitely exciting. I'm competitive so I could feel my adrenaline flowing,” she said. “This kind of accolade is the culmination of all the things you've worked hard for over the course of your career.”
The award, though, is not one she credits as achieving on her own.
“It's not an individual honor for me. This is a shared honor with my faculty, Cope students and Cope parents,” she said. “We are all in this together and they make me enjoy coming to work every day and being able to do the things I enjoy doing.”
Her goal has always been to maintain a “positive and encouraging environment” for students through athletics, electives, clubs and, most importantly, academics.
“Academics are first and foremost in our minds, but we also want it to be a well-rounded educational experience,” she said. “Every student here belongs to a club and that's because we want every child to feel like they belong. I think that's what makes a positive learning environment.”
Grooms spent seven years in south Louisiana schools before making her way north to Bossier Parish. She started out as a math teacher and girl's athletics coach for two years then became the guidance counselor for five years, assistant principal for four years and just finished year 12 as principal, rounding out 23 years at Cope.
Because of the different experiences she's had at the school, Grooms said she views her role of principal different than others might.
“There's no doubt in my mind that I definitely have a counselors heart,” she said. “I try to meet with the kids to find a solution to problems and figure out a plan of action for them.”
Approximately 740 students will attend Cope Middle School this year, a number that Grooms said has increased year-to-year since she arrived 23 years ago. Not only are the numbers growing, but she said the way students learn and use technology has significantly changed through the years.
“I think adjusting to each transition of what it takes to teach children today. It's a lot different than what it was 10 years ago. Keeping their attention and their focus. Sometimes they come in knowing how to use the technology more than we do. We try to stay a step ahead, but it's not easy.”
That's why, Grooms said, Cope will be implementing a B. Y. O. T. – Bring Your Own Technology – initiative this school year.
“I want to continue our school-wide emphasis on cutting edge technology so we are going to allow [students] to bring their own technology, such as eReaders, iPads or something they use with educational focus,” she said.
Grooms has a lot of goals in mind for the 2012-2013 school year. One of those is to continue spreading the school's positive image, which she said is a challenge they will “definitely embrace.”
“I think our students and teachers are proud of the fact that we are receiving some local, state and now national recognition for what we do,” she said. “It makes you want to work harder to keep maintain and grow those peoples opinions.”
Grooms revealed a little more about what's in store for Cope this year. They are embarking on a theme that will unite students, teachers, faculty members and the community.
“We are shaping America at Cope Middle School this year,” she said. “It's an exciting time with lots of changes coming in. We are going to need to unite, work together and stand strong.”
For winning Middle School Principal of the Year, Grooms received a prize package that included a $2,500 check from the non-profit organization, Dream Teachers, a year supply of Community Coffee for the teacher's lounge at Cope, a sound system and a variety of gift certificates from businesses in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge area. She will also represent Louisiana in September during a trip to Washington, D.C., where she will be recognized and honored at the White House.
It's unsure if she will get a chance to shake hands and speak with President Barack Obama, but Grooms said she has a few questions in mind just in case the opportunity comes her way.
“Let's talk about education,” she said with a laugh. “I'd like to know what focus areas he has for leading our country and to please make sure teachers and administrators are included in the process for developing programs.”
Now that the final days of summer vacation are dwindling down and Grooms had a special message for the Cope Middle School family.
“Get ready,” she said. “We've been preparing this summer to do things this year that will really engage our students and deliver effective instruction. We are prepared for a great year of learning.”