Every morning before the start of class, the principal of Asbury School stands in the hallway and greets her students with a smile.
Many of the teenagers at the alternative school deal with academic and social difficulties, but she tells them they start each day with a clean slate.
â€œIf you carry the burden of what happened in the past with you everyday, it will weigh you down,â€ said Worda James, the schoolâ€™s principal. â€œSo you need to start fresh.â€
This approach to administration has gained James the title of Alternative School Principal of the Year for the state of North Carolina.
After spending nearly the entirety of her career in alternative education, James is pleased with the recognition.
â€œIt feels pretty great to be nominated by your peers, people you know who are in the same business youâ€™re in,â€ said James.
She received the award from the North Carolina Association of Educators where she is currently serving as president.
James did not originally plan on becoming an alternative administrator. In fact, it wasnâ€™t her goal to become a teacher at all.
She attended college to become a nurse, but she was also certified as a science teacher as a back up.
It ended up teaching was the thing she loved most, and when she received a job at an alternative school, which catered to students struggling with a variety of issues, she didnâ€™t shy away.
â€œI wasnâ€™t afraid of the kids,â€ said James. â€œI think itâ€™s a matter of being able to sit down and talk to them and treat them with dignity and respect.â€
For the past seven years, James has worked as Asbury Schoolâ€™s principal, and she has no plans of leaving.
â€œI love these kids,â€ she said.
The school serves students in the seventh through the twelfth grades, all of whom had difficulty in their home schools because of emotional, behavioral or academic issues.
Asbury School holds a maximum of 60 students at a time, and the average class size is around 10 students, making it easier for the teenagers to receive individual attention.
â€œNot all kids fit into the regular setting for whatever reason,â€ said James. â€œA lot of kids need extra attention that they canâ€™t get from a regular high school.â€
James makes a point of interacting with her students on a regular basis. She asks them about their mothers and grandmothers and how their days are going.
After developing a relationship with a student, she says itâ€™s sometimes difficult to see them transfer back to their home school, even if that signifies success.
â€œYou do miss them,â€ said James.
Even if a student attended the school for only one semester, they still receive visits at their home schools from Asbury School staff.
That connection with students is something James values, and something she will make a point of continuing throughout her career.
â€œI think my heart will always be in alternative education,â€ she said.by Sarah Grano