Principal of Year knows importance of listening
Steve Wray, the 2012-13 Union County Public Schools Principal of the Year, prides himself on being a good listener.
He learned that lesson from his father, Glenn Wray. “Dad had a saying when I was growing up. ‘God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. You need to listen more than you talk.’ I’ve lived by that," he said.
"Working with my staff, I do a lot of listening," he added.
Steve feels like one of the most important roles he has as principal at Weddington Middle School is to make sure nothing stands in the way of educating children.
"I remove barriers so that we can do the things we didn’t think we could and so that my teachers and staff can lead in the things they want to do, but haven’t done yet. It’s a lot of listening and not squashing ideas, but building leadership among my staff. ”
A five-year veteran principal, Steve said his mother, Toni, a 39-year-veteran teacher, led to his decision to go into education. His career began 14 years ago as a health and physical education teacher at a private Catholic school in Virginia called Linton Hall. He moved to Union County from Virginia in 2005. He has been the principal at Weddington Middle since 2008.
Being named UCPS Principal of the Year came as quite a surprise. “It’s very humbling, because there are so many wonderful principals in the county,” he said. “It truly is an honor.”
On the lighter side, the welcome reception waiting at his school after being named was a bit overwhelming. He said he could barely walk through the door of his office for all the congratulatory balloons and streamers that his staff had hung.
“I feel like I’m blessed to be with the teachers and staff at Weddington Middle,” he said. “It’s such a good group of people who work very, very hard. I really truly don’t think I do anything more or less than any other principal. Our school is good because we work together and they’re so talented. They make me look good.”
Steve says he thinks his teachers and staff know that he truly cares about them.
"I know their kids’ names and their significant other’s names. We're family here.”
Even though he makes an effort to get to know his staff well, he’s not one to talk much about himself.
Case in point, “I didn’t tell any of my staff members I was a finalist in the Principal of the Year competition. I’m not big into talking about myself. It makes me somewhat uncomfortable talking about myself. Hopefully, they know I’m a hard worker, I enjoy my job and I lead a school that concentrates on doing what’s best for kids.”
It's also important for him to be able to call his students by name when asking how their day is going. "It's all about the kids," he said.
Steve begins his mornings about 6:30 a.m. by checking emails and performingother managerial duties so he can be free when school starts to greet students and visit classrooms.
“I start every morning in the car rider line so I can welcome kids to school,” he said. “Then I try to be out in the building and in the classrooms, covering lunches, those types of things, because that’s what I enjoy -- the kids.”
Wray will now go on to compete for the regional top principal title.
• This article was written by Deb Coates Bledsoe, Union County Public Schools Communications Coordinator and provided courtesy of the UCPSCommunications Office.