Jaime Carroll Stone '94, Principal, Camden-Rockport Middle School
How many years have you been the principal of your school?
Five years at CRMS and ten years overall.
What first sparked your interest in becoming a school leader?
I helped open a teacher-led school in Baltimore City, named ConneXions Academy, and quickly learned that I cared a lot about the frameworks and priorities of a school. I began my Master's coursework at Johns Hopkins University for Administration and Supervision while teaching at ConneXions and became very interested in our model of instruction through my professional development with Expeditionary Learning. After three years I went to work for Expeditionary Learning and began coaching administrators and teachers around the country, and through this work I found my deep beliefs in educational philosophy. After having two children I was considering not traveling for work any longer, and a K-4 Expeditionary Learning School in Baltimore, Southwest Baltimore Charter School, approached me about starting a 5th-8th grade expansion of the school for them. I became the principal there and learned an incredible amount about arts integration, urban issues, and leadership.
What was your education/career path from GSA graduation to your current job?
I was a coach for pee-wee, middle school, and high school sports, which is where I found great joy in working with children. I obtained my teaching degree from UMO, taught 8th grade at Sedgwick elementary and then moved to Maryland to continue teaching mostly in middle schools and then moved to working as a school designer for Expeditionary Learning. From there I became a principal and have been doing that work for 10 years.
In hindsight, can you draw any connection between your own school experience at GSA and the career path you chose? What was formative about your student experience at GSA?
School leadership and even teaching weren't considerations I had while in school. I loved my wood shop and drafting classes at GSA and considered architecture at one point based on my love of visual mathematics. Instead this loved showed up as me being a math teacher through most of my years as a teacher.
Looking back to your senior year of high school, what career/aspirations did you have for yourself at that time? What did you do as an Independent Study project?
I answered some of this above. Independent Study as a junior was working with a real estate and housing agency in Florida, which I really enoyed. Senior year, I worked at Rackliffe Pottery and the Hancock Country Sheriff's department. I enjoyed all of these placements, especially doing pottery work. I continue to practice art on my own for pleasure.
What educational, work, or life experience has best prepared you to take on the role of school principal?
Working as a school designer and doing professional development and administrator and teacher coaching was excellent preparation to become a principal. Being a good teacher is also critical preparation. Being a coach of athletics helped me developed a good deal of effective skills in working with various people and in problem solving. Nothing really prepares you for this job. Each day is its own set of experiences. Working in Baltimore is incredibly different than working in Camden, as you can imagine. Both are challenging for different reasons, but each day I learn and grow. On-the-job training and learning by doing are the best preparation I have had through these past ten years.
What do you love about being a school principal? What is most rewarding about this job?
I love working with the students, and being a principal still keeps me connected to the kids. Middle school kids are really funny and still enjoy working with adults who care about them. They are willing to take risks and are at a stage where they are figuring out who they are. While this isn't the highlight reel of everyone's lives, I often think about how much better it can be if you're surrounded by adults who care about you, are kind, and inspire you to work hard and grow into your best self. The staff is also one of the highlights of the work for me. I have an incredible staff, from our teachers to our custodians, we are Crew and a pretty-high functioning work family. I'm a people person, so this kind of work is a good match for me. Seeing people (kids and adults) grow and do great things is very rewarding.
What is challenging about being a school principal?
Everything! Honestly, it's a really hard job. The work is based in servant leadership, so you serve the community in all you do and need to keep that focus. The work is humbling and it is never done. No two days are alike. While these are challenges, I enjoy these elements, and they suit my working style and personality.
What is a source of pride in your school community?
Kindness! We have such a kind and thoughtful community of adults and children. The respect between the children and the adults is high, and kind acts are happening around every corner. Middle school isn't always an environment where we think kindness is a highlight, but it is at CRMS. It is one of our core values, and we work hard to implement structures and strategies to cultivate care for one another and our broader community.