Loved former algebra teacher steps into principal role

ABERDEEN – When recently named Belle-Shivers Middle School Principal Karen Howard walks the halls, she tries to connect with students on a personal level.

The former Aberdeen High School algebra teacher of 17 years, STAR Teacher and district academic coach of two and a half years has been in her new position less than a month but has gotten to know more and more students on a personal level with each passing day.

“With a lot of the students I have now, I’ve taught their parents. I ask their name and their parents’ names and can say, ‘Oh, I taught them.’ That really helps because when they have problems, they’re comfortable coming to talk to me. We want them to get an education and prosper in life,” Howard said.

Howard took the place of Martha Jackson, who now oversees the Aberdeen School District’s alternative school.

The middle school educates grades four through eight, and programs such as Positive Behavior Intervention Systems and honor role ceremonies are motivators. A goal for next school year is implementing Capturing Kids Hearts, which is geared toward building relationships with students.

“Hopefully they’ll talk to us instead of having the frustrations build. Sometimes children don’t trust us. While we are empathetic, we want them to come to school to learn,” Howard said.

She stressed the need for all stakeholders to help secure student success.

“This is our community, and these children are our future. They need mentors, and I know there are good people from Aberdeen who can show the children there’s a future for them. Aberdeen can be a prosperous town like Tupelo and the other cities around; it just takes risk-takers to help with a positive change,” Howard said.

The Aberdeen School Board recently approved an action plan for Belle-Shivers Middle School due to its at-risk status following last year’s state assessments. Howard brings enthusiasm amid the action plan.

“I know we’re better than an F. I know that, the parents know that, and the students know that. We’ve got to make the parents understand that. I believe success is possible, and the parents and students do too. It may not be immediate, but it’s coming.

“We’re going to make this better. We’re shooting for an A, and I’m giving everything I have to make sure we get it,” she said.