Erica page with students at Pelion High

Leading by example

Education alumna, Erica Page, named National Assistant Principal of the Year

University of South Carolina College of Education alumna and Pelion High School assistant principal, Erica Page, was named the 2018 National Assistant Principal of the Year. The announcement comes just five months after another Carolina education alumnus, Akil Ross, earned National Principal of the Year.

The honor, given by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, recognizes an outstanding middle-level and high school assistant principal who has made exemplary contributions to the profession and to students’ learning.

Leading up to the national award, Page also was named the South Carolina Assistant Principal of the Year by the SC Association of School Administrators.

“On behalf of her alma mater, I congratulate her and applaud her service to children and her community,” says Jon Pedersen, dean of the College of Education. “She is a shining example of the many great educators who are well prepared by Carolina to lead our students and schools. Her desire to improve education and the lives of her students should inspire us all.”

Though not a South Carolina native, Page began her career in education a decade ago in Lexington County after an adventurous 650-mile move south. When she graduated from college in Ohio and started looking for her first teaching job, Page knew she wanted to move to a place with no snow and easy access to the water.

“I never wanted to wear snow boots or shovel snow again — even if that meant I had to move away from home,” Page says with a laugh.

A magazine list of “Top Places to Live” led the self-proclaimed nature lover and fitness enthusiast to visit Columbia.

“I remember attending a Lexington School District 1 job fair and being offered a teaching job on the spot,” Page says. “As soon as I figured out Columbia was within two hours of the ocean and the mountains, and I saw Lake Murray, I knew I wanted to live here.”

Page began teaching at White Knoll High School in Lexington County in 2007.

“I taught Strategies for Success, an introduction to high school class,” Page says. “I then created, wrote curriculum and taught a leadership course called Leadership 21. That’s where my passion developed for reaching all students, from at-risk to advanced placement. I love developing student leaders, watching them thrive and celebrating their accomplishments.”

A few years into her teaching career, Page realized she could influence more students than just those sitting in her classroom by becoming an administrator. To reach this goal, she enrolled in the College of Education at the University of South Carolina and earned a master's degree in educational administration in 2011.

“Carolina is truly preparing their graduates to become top leaders in their profession and supports their professional growth,” says Page. “The professors, the research, the coursework — they were all focused on helping educators become leaders who are prepared to inspire their staff and their students to succeed. At Carolina, they supported my deep belief that as educators, we must empower all of our students, believe in them and advocate for them.”

After earning her master’s degree, Page was promoted to assistant principal at Pelion High School, also in Lexington 1. During that time, the high school achieved the highest graduation rate in school history. Since 2015, at least 97 percent of graduating students have been accepted into a college or university or enlisted in the military. Despite those gains, Page is still focused on improving another statistic. 

I don’t take for granted the impact I, as an educator, can have on kids … I always say that education is the best way to give back to a community, and that is why I’m devoted to this profession.

Erica Page, National Assistant Principal of the Year

“Of those who are accepted into a two or four-year university, about 50 percent actually attend college,” Page says. “For our students, a lack of transportation often prevents them from going to college. They can often earn scholarships or become eligible for grants, but they don’t have a vehicle to drive to campus.”

To overcome this transportation issue, Page is an advocate of extending public transit to Pelion. And in the meantime, she has helped to create a dual enrollment program which allows students to earn college credits while still in high school.

“Imagine the economic, social and cultural opportunities that we could create if our students could graduate with an associate degree or a year’s worth of credits towards a bachelor’s degree on top of their high school diploma,” Page says. “This would give them a stronger start on their path towards completing a post-secondary education, which is my focus for students. I believe that this educational advantage is integral to my students’ success and happiness.”

Another focus for Page is ensuring that each of the 650 students at Pelion High — whom she affectionately calls “her kids” — know that she is there to support them, advocate for their best interest and push them toward personal and academic success.

“For some students, I may be the only person that day who tells them I’m glad to see them, I’m happy that they came to school, I believe they can make good grades and go to college,” Page says. “I don’t take for granted the impact I, as an educator, can have on kids. And I really do believe in them and care about what happens to each of them. I always say that education is the best way to give back to a community, and that is why I’m devoted to this profession.”             

Recognizing her achievement

The Capstone residence hall on Barnwell Street is crowned with lights that create a garnet glow to celebrate major academic and athletic accomplishments at the university. On the evening of April 19, Carolina will recognize Erica Page for being named National Assistant Principal of the Year by lighting the Capstone Achievement Tower.

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