“She understands instruction at a deep level and acts as a coach to our staff to assist them in improving their craft,” said Dr. Phil Jones. “She is innovative, caring and works tirelessly for long hours to make DMS the very best it can be for our learning community.”
Missie McKinney, assistant principal at Dalton Middle School, knows that teamwork is what makes a school stand out more than anything else. When she was nominated for AP of the Year with the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals (GASSP), she said it was the team, not herself alone, that deserves the recognition.
Although McKinney does not know who nominated her for the award, she feels humbled and honored that someone took the time to go through the process. "It's overwhelming because so many people deserve that recognition," she said. "This nomination and the whole process was a great chance to share our school's story and talk about our kids. Because of our size, we see the importance in relationships with kids. We do big really well because we do small really well."
Dr. Phil Jones, principal at Dalton Middle School, said McKinney builds strong relationships with staff, students and parents. "She understands instruction at a deep level and acts as a coach to our staff to assist them in improving their craft," he said. "She is innovative, caring and works tirelessly for long hours to make DMS the very best it can be for our learning community."
McKinney described her job as supporting teachers so that they can do what they need to do to support students. "I just try to work hard every day to make sure teachers can help their students grow and be successful," she said. "I've tried to create an environment where teachers know it is okay if they fail. We will just keep on trying."
Last year, Dalton Middle School administration began re-thinking how they were serving students with special needs. McKinney worked closely with teachers and staff at the district level to completely revise the middle school's Exceptional Student Services (ESS) schedule, carefully aligning tiered instructional support to best meet each student's needs.
"It has been a phenomenal transformation and extremely beneficial for our students," said Dr. Jones.
Another example of McKinney's innovation is the "Friends" program. She and Ronnie Natola, special education teacher at the time, designed and facilitated a program to allow regular education students to apply for volunteer positions to support students in the self-contained special education program. Several years later, the program is still going strong.
Dr. Jones explained that students accompany and work with their "friends" during connections classes, at lunch and around campus in general. "While the program is greatly beneficial for our self-contained students, it is equally beneficial for our regular education students, helping them empathize with others whose struggles may be different than their own," he said. "The program also helps them understand that even with exceptionalities, we are all much more similar than different."
McKinney said the story of Dalton Middle lies in its challenges and its growth.
"I love to be challenged. My favorite part about working here are the challenges we face and being able to figure out how we can help our kids," she said. "Our student body looks like the world. Together, we work hard, we laugh hard and we cry hard."
But to McKinney, it all comes back to teamwork. "To be a leader you have to have people who are willing to follow you. I'm just so honored that I have those people who are willing to let me be a leader."