New principal channeling her passion at Young Elementary
Marylaura McKoon believes we are all shaped by our past.
As it happens, Vance County is a significant part of her past and continues to impact her future.
McKoon is the new principal at E.O. Young Elementary and has lived in the county since she was 4 years old. She attended E.M. Rollins Elementary, Eaton-Johnson Middle and Vance Senior High back when the county had only one high school.
Her teaching and leadership style is influenced in large part by her experiences as a student in Vance County.
“I think that when I look back in my education, I only bumped into one or two teachers that really inspired me, that I could see they absolutely loved kids,” she said.
“I wanted to be teacher because I believe that everyone should feel important in the classroom. No one should feel that they are not smart, no one should feel that they are not brilliant children just because they have a lot of energy.”
The Kittrell resident began her teaching career at L.B. Yancey Elementary in 1989 and took some time off when her first son was born seven years later.
Her passion, she says, is working with low-income students.
“For some reason, that has always been where I tend to be the strongest,” she said. “They do not need crutches. What they need is someone to understand and support and challenge and believe in them. It’s cool that I was raised in a Tier 1 county, which is exactly what we have here.”
The mother of two boys returned to the classroom in 2004 at her former elementary school where she was a reading specialist for third, fourth and fifth-grade students.
McKoon assumed more responsibility and leadership in her next position as assistant principal of Zeb Vance Elementary.
Anne Garrison, the principal at Zeb Vance, said she and McKoon worked as a team from their first day on the job together.
“Our personalities meshed as we both knew our focus was the students, and what their individual needs were,” Garrison wrote in an email. “We always had each other’s backs and learned so much about students, staff and parents along the way. It is great to see her being able to follow through with her desire and dream to have her own school and apply her touch to learning and leading.”
McKoon said she got off to a rocky start at Zeb Vance.
“They had a lot of children being suspended because, at that time, the teachers were trying to get comfortable with the students who were there,” she said.
The student population at Zeb Vance changed in the late 1990s, McKoon explained.
“You had this shift where people from the city moved into the county and the clients changed and the teachers were not adjusting,” she said.
But the adjustment became easier as the school implemented a new strategy called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, which focuses on positive discipline rather than punishment.
“I love kids,” she said. “I think they are hysterical and I think they are very smart. They are just different. You just have to figure out how their brains are engineered and meet them where they are.”
She doesn’t believe in punishing kids, without understanding the underlying motivation behind the student’s behavior.
It is easy to write up a student for acting out, she says, but much more difficult to earn a child’s trust and learn about their troubled home life that is often times the reason for misbehavior.
This philosophy stems from her interactions with teachers during her time as a student.
“I wish I had a teacher who knew something about me, who wanted to know something personal about me,” she recalls.
McKoon wants to know all her students; their past and where they came from.
For right now, she is working on getting down the names of all 315 kids.
“I want to be able to look at them and say their name,” she said. “I have a yearbook and I study it every night because I think it is important to call someone by their name.”
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