Joey Millwood is in the midst of one of the biggest transitions in his professional career as he becomes principal at South Hall Middle.
“I am seeing there’s some distinct differences,” he said.
But at least he knows the landscape.
“As far as familiarity with the community, with the kids, teachers and staff … there’s not a lot of change,” Millwood said.
That’s because Millwood began his career in education in 1997 as a science and history teacher in South Hall.
During this period, he was named teacher of the year.
In 2000, he resigned from the district to accept a position at Eagle Ranch in Chestnut Mountain.
Millwood returned to Hall County Schools in 2005, accepting a position as instructional coach at South Hall Middle.
He has served as assistant principal at the school since 2007 and was named principal when Paula Stubbs announced her retirement effective Dec. 28.
Millwood said he’s been connected to the South Hall community so long he’s now got students in his school who are children of his former pupils.
Now that he’s the lead messenger, Millwood said he hopes his values remain true even while accepting new responsibility.
“I hope I don’t treat them any differently,” he added. “I truly believe that the person that bears the responsibility for the climate of the school is the principal. The principal can set the tone.”
So, what tone is that?
For Millwood, it’s about conveying to students that you care. It’s about gaining their trust, protecting their safety and making them become “what they are meant to be.”
It’s also about consistency – showing up every day and meeting the same level of expectation.
“I try to be as congruent as I possibly can,” Millwood said.
There’s also a mission to help students and staff find joy in learning and instructing, Millwood said.
As a former teacher, Millwood said he understands the impact educators can have on students in and out of the classroom while “influencing staff and families, too.”
But Millwood takes even his joy seriously.
“I don’t take it lightly,” he said. “As a teacher and administrator, there’s a huge accountability because we are shaping people’s lives.”
Kids are still kids, right? Sure. But Millwood said they’ll rise to the occasion once you have their trust and once they have your belief.
“They need a positive voice,” Millwood said. “They’re still malleable.”