Skip to Content

College of Education

Q&A with Middle Level Principal of the Year, Mary Leslie Anderson of League Academy

Principal Anderson hopes her recognition will allow her to advocate for educators across the state.


Q: Tell us a little about how you chose a career in education?

A: “From a young age, I loved to read and explore. I began to think about how that love could shape my future, and I ended up majoring in English in college. I’m passionate about reading, analyzing and researching, and I wanted to share that passion with others. Education seemed like the logical choice to influence others to explore and cultivate curiosity.”


Q: What was something about your collegiate experience that shaped your educational journey?

A: “My college experience really changed my trajectory in life. Growing up, I did not view myself as academically gifted. I had experience with teachers who questioned my abilities, and I was really fearful heading into my freshman year. Once I was accepted to Carolina, I was 100 percent sold on being a Gamecock. When I began taking classes within my major, I started soaring for the first time in my life. I discovered my leadership capabilities as a University 101 peer leader, a volunteer and member of my sorority. I began taking on roles that I never felt were possible in high school.”


Q: How did your transition from student to educator go?

A: “In my year-long practicum at Dreher High School, I gained a mentor in Francie Markham. I wanted to teach just like she did. I fell in love with high school English and planned to teach that subject after graduation. However, when I moved back to Greenville, I was hired to teach at Hughes Academy, a middle school. In my interview I felt a spark that I still remember today. They were so excited about the work I completed in graduate school and offered me the job to teach eighth grade. Except for one year, I’ve been in middle school ever since!”


Q: When did you begin considering a move to administration?

A: “Lucky for me, the principals I’ve worked under have always seen my capacity for leadership. Even when I have not seen it in myself. I began as English department chair and team leader. I’m probably an anomaly, but I love professional learning. It reminds me of the research and exploring that I did as an English major. I continued to grow in new roles as a magnet coordinator, then teacher specialist at Berea Middle School. I saw how I could affect the lives beyond my classroom. After a few years coaching, I went back to the classroom to test the new educational methods I was learning. I turned my practice into my own research project to see how much I could grow.”


Q: What was the most impactful thing you learned during these years of testing yourself?

A: “I began to believe that I could truly make a difference in the lives of educators. If our educators are happy, successful and confident, then our kids are getting the best of the best. It is my job and gift to inspire our educators, and that is what led me to become principal. I worked in as many departments as I could on my journey to this role. I gained mentors wherever I went to learn how to affect positive change. I worked to establish my leadership mission and the ability to share that mission with others.”


Q: What does it mean to you to be our state’s Middle Level Principal of the Year?

A: “Since I’ve gotten this title, I have thought very sincerely about what I will do with this opportunity. I want to make sure that I’m using this platform to advocate for our profession and the teachers within it. I want administrators to understand that we need to listen and build workplaces that are loving, kind and trusting. We have to be on the same page as our educators and act like a team. So often administrators get caught up in the daily stresses of our jobs, that we forget how important it is to build a better workplace culture. I want my teachers to trust me and know that I’m making decisions based on their needs and the children’s needs. Increasing transparency is one of the key ingredients to building a better workplace culture. This is the message I want to share with administrators throughout our state.”

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.