With a vision of outside learning centers and building better readers, Robin Cooper is excited about the new school year.
As the new principal of Midway Elementary School, it will be the next chapter of her career. She plans to make it a long one, with no end in sight.
“I’m going to be here for the long haul,” she said. “I’ve got kids in the system. It’s not like I want to pick up and move for something. I’m vested. That makes things a lot easier.”
Cooper came to Midway Elementary last year through an assistant principal position. She was promoted to principal in March. She’s now ready for her first full year in the administrative role and working with other educators at the school.
“There’s going to be challenges,” she said. “But I’m looking forward to those challenges, because with challenges come growth.”
One of her goals is to have success in literacy by using “The Next Step in Guided Reading,” a focused assessment designed by Jan Richardson.
“I know that reading was not one of the strong areas at the school, based on some of the data that I looked at,” she said.
As principal, she would like to leave her mark on students and help them become better readers. Another goal is to build outside science learning areas, such as butterfly gardens.
“That’s right in line with what I want to see those kids have,” Cooper said. “So getting all of that stuff to that campus and those experiences to those kids is what I’m really looking forward to.”
Cooper grew up in Roseboro and attended schools in the Lakewood district of Sampson County Schools (SCS). She had several siblings in her home and expressed how it helped with leadership roles.
“Growing up being in the middle of a lot of children, you kind of have to stand your ground and stake out your territory,” she said with a chuckle. “My baby sister said I were the boss anyway.”
Her teachers and professors in college also influenced her.
“I had a really good mentor in college who told me that I had leadership skills and she helped me get those polished up,” Cooper said. “I know I’m not perfect, but I was always willing to learn and try new things.”
She originally wanted to go into medicine, but that changed after she became a tutor while she was a student at Fayetteville State University (FSU).
“That tutoring lead me into teaching,” Cooper said. “I loved it. After I realized that teaching is what I wanted, I wanted to do it in my hometown. I wanted to bring back something positive to the area.”
After graduating from FSU with a degree in geography and sociology, she began teaching at Sampson’s alternative school as a social studies teacher.
“That experienced prepared me for teaching anywhere,” Cooper said.
Next, she earned a master’s in science from FSU and administration certifications from Gardner-Webb University. Her educational journey also includes the Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy, Lakewood High School, Roseboro-Salemburg Middle School and working as a literacy and instructional coach for Sampson Schools. Midway Elementary marks her first time working at the primary area.
“I’ve already grown to love it in the past few months that I’ve been here,” Cooper said. “It’s different. Those kids just pull at your heartstrings. I think that’s what educators need. They need that tug at their heartstrings, so they know what they’re doing and if the decisions they’re making are best for those kids — not just academically, but socially.”
Cooper resides in Clinton and is married to Jimmie “Lajuan” Cooper, owner of the Public Barber Shop in Roseboro. Together, they have two children: Jimmie Cooper Jr., a Midway High School student, and Gillian, a first-grader at Midway Elementary.
She is a member of the Distinguished Leadership in Practice, a program of the N.C. Principals & Assistant Principals Association; Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.; and other organizations associated with leadership, education and science.
Jeana Carr, SCS director of elementary education, is looking forward to seeing Cooper’s contributions.
“I’m excited that she’s going to be principal for a full year,” Cooper said.
Carr added that her knowledge and background with reading programs will benefit the school as well.
“She’s well rounded and will provide some instructional literacy for the school,” Cooper said.