Last week, Ashley Bowling, the assistant principal of Florence Middle School in Florence, AL, and the 2022 Alabama Assistant Principal of the Year, was the keynote speaker at the Inaugural Teacher Candidate Pinning Ceremony at the University of North Alabama. We highlight her remarks below in the hopes that they will inspire other school leaders to share their wisdom so that other educators can learn and grow.


Congratulations on making it to this amazing accomplishment! College is hard. College with a pandemic thrown in the middle is even harder.

Ashley Bowling at the University of North Alabama’s Inaugural Teacher Candidate Pinning Ceremony.  

My education journey—and being an educator—has been a true calling and blessing. However, the most precious moment has been my amazing little boy, Dorian. I tell you this because I want to talk about the Dorians you will have in your future classrooms and the impact you will have. Recently, I was in Washington, DC, representing Alabama as the Assistant Principal of the Year, and I heard a speaker say that regardless of where you teach, you will impact her children. You may never be my son’s teacher. However, your students will grow to be his community, maybe his boss, members of his extended family, his medical professionals, and so much more. Please carry this responsibility with great care and pride.

Today, I want to speak to you from three different perspectives that I know best: as a mother, as a school leader, and as a colleague.

Here are three things as a mother I want you to know:

  1. In the chairs of your classrooms, you have someone’s world sitting in them. When I drop Dorian off at school, I know he is in great care. So, know that as a mother, I trust you.
  2. I love hearing positive things about my child, even though I know that takes extra time. Take the time. Positive conversations help you build a relationship with parents and families, so when you have to have a more difficult conversation, there is already a strong positive foundation.
  3. I respect you as the expert in your classroom and support you. While ensuring the instruction is effective, please remember to make learning fun. Nothing is better than my son telling me about the fun he had at school. Little does he know, he was actually learning through an engaging activity, but he thinks it’s all fun!

As a school leader, here’s what I want you to know:

  • As a teacher, you will be asked to do things you have learned while in college and some things that you will learn as you go. The work will be hard, and some days will be long. Always remember that nothing is more important than your mission and remaining true to your why.
  • The students you will see every day are full of excitement and fear. Most will come ready to learn and a few will come who need to feel loved before they can learn. Teach with emotion. I need you to be excited and ready to teach all students. You have the change of the world sitting in your classroom.
  • We live in a world of accountability. Don’t let the data intimidate you. Look at it as an opportunity for you to help your students grow. Continue to grow in your skills. Seek opportunities for feedback and support. Invite others into your classroom to watch your craft. Teaching is an art and a science. Great teachers can connect the two and create excitement for learning coupled with effective, evidence-based teaching.

As a colleague, here’s what I wish had known earlier in my career:

  • Build your network—professionally and personally. Find a mentor in your building who you can ask the “silly” questions to, like how does the copier work?
  • Be in control of your passion for the profession. Never lose sight of doing what is right for kids. You might hear negative comments regarding education, but you are in control of what influences your positivity and the impact that has on others. Be proud that you have the ability to impact our future. Always love students; they know if you are sincere.
  • Give grace to yourself and others. Our work is hard, take time to reflect, and give grace when needed.

Go be great and make your impact on eternity. I need you, your students need you, and the world needs you.


Click here to learn more about NASSP’s Assistant Principal of the Year program.

1 Comment

  • Amy Childers says:

    This amazing lady is admired by so many because she lives these words everyday . We are blessed to work beside her … teaching our kids like they’re our own .
    Thank you for your guidance, wisdom & leadership !

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