By, Kelby Zendejas
Principal of Della Davidson Elementary School Patches Calhoun shares what challenges she’s faced during her career as a teacher and administrator. An elementary math teacher for 17 years, Calhoun sits in the perfect spot between having experience teaching and now running an entire schooling facility in an administrative position.
Q: Teaching or administrating isn’t for the faint of heart, how do you keep yourself motivated and strong-minded?
“Honestly, I am a very intrinsically motivated person. I always have been. I am naturally very competitive and I’ve always pushed myself to be the very best that I can be in anything that I do – even the smallest things – I am actually also much harder on myself than I should be because I cause myself a lot of unneeded stress.
I have been blessed in the fact that I have found something that I get to do everyday that I am very passionate about – education and kids! And doing what is right/best for kids is also one of the things that keeps me waking up to do the job everyday. Education is a “life changing” profession – we literally have the ability every single day to change the projection of a child’s path in life – and you can’t take that lightly – that’s why the work is so important!”
Q: What’s been the most inspirational part of your job? What are some challenges?
“Kids! Kids are what inspire me to do this job. I know that by providing kids with the best education possible we are giving them a chance to be successful in the world and to be something!
There are so many many challenges that come with this job. Right now for us, one of the biggest challenges we are facing at Della is that Covid and virtual learning made people start thinking that being at school is not important – like it is almost optional. Attendance, tardies, and check outs are really hurting our students. It’s like being at school has become less of a priority for so many families. If kids are not at school – we cannot teach them!”
Q: Since “greatness” is surely subjective, what makes you great in your current role? What makes you “great” in the education sphere? Don’t be modest here.
“I’m not sure “great” is one of the adjectives I would throw out there when talking about myself. I am so hard on myself and I’m not the best at positive self talk – that’s something I’m working on.
I am a people person! I have a true desire to serve others! Relationships are very important to me – and I use that to help me in my position. I care so much about the people that I lead and I think that they see that in me and in return they work hard and strive to meet the high expectations that have been set because of that relationship. They know that my own personal expectation for myself is high so I am never expecting more from them than I expect from myself.
I also believe that the extensive amount of time I spent in the classroom before going into administration plays a big role in my success in this position. I spent 17 years teaching fourth grade math – two of those years I taught third grade math. I have lived the classroom life. I know what it’s like. I know how hard it is.
As a leader I’m always going to think about what it’s like to be the person in the room that is doing the work. And my teachers know this about me – they know that I value the work that they do.”
Q: From your experience, what does the word “greatness” mean to you?
“Greatness to me means being your very best self. I tell my teachers all the time that we have to be a little bit better today than we were yesterday – and tomorrow a little bit better than we were today. I don’t really think there is an “end goal” to greatness or this “reachable” finish line. To me, I’m just trying to be better – never settling on what my best is at that moment and continuing to push to improve and do better.”
Q: Lastly, did you always want to be in education? What did you aspire to be when you were younger?
“I did always love school but I was never one of those people that put out the stuffed animals and played school. Being a teacher actually never crossed my mind until later in my college years. In high school, I wanted to be a band director – I guess you might say that is in education – but I didn’t really think about it like that.
I loved music. I played the drums in my high school band and later played two years in the Ole Miss band while majoring in music. I eventually decided that music was not something I wanted to do every single day. School made me realize that it was something that I loved doing (playing) – but I found that spending every waking hour working on it took all of the fun out of it and I was not headed into a career that was going to bring me happiness.
I grew up in a house where my dad hated going to work every day – and I heard that my whole life – so I decided early on that I would never spend my life going to a job that I hated. I wanted to find something to do that I loved, and I was blessed to find that in education. I might have taken the long road to get here (it took me six years to get my bachelor’s degree because I wasn’t clear on what I wanted to do or be), but once I found the path things in life just started falling in place for me.”