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A career in education was something that Marie Ashford always knew she wanted.  After spending the past seven years as the principal of Pumpkin Center Intermediate, she’s been named the new principal at Catawba Springs Elementary School.

“Everybody thinks it’ll go away once you get in college and you’ll change your major, but I didn’t,” she said. “I stayed with education.”

Originally from New York, Ashford graduated from high school and then college in Indiana. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree, Ashford took a teaching position near Nashville, Tennessee and taught for five years before coming to North Carolina.

Her first teaching position was at Catawba Springs Elementary School in 2004 while Mitch Eisner was principal, so it’s “like coming home.” She taught kindergarten for a year and first grade for two years before becoming the assistant principal at Rock Springs where she stayed for another five years. She served as assistant principal at Iron Station Elementary for two years before assuming her first principalship at Pumpkin Center Intermediate.

“If feels like it all just happened yesterday,” she said. “This is my 23rd year in education. I still remember those first days starting in Tennessee and moving here. I enjoy being in the schools.” 

After working at an intermediate school with just grades four and five, Ashford wanted to return to a conventional elementary school with preschool through fifth grade, so when Kristi Smith announced her retirement, Ashford applied for the job. The other draw to Catawba Springs is that her children currently attend this school.

“It’ll be a different feel because it’s the first time I’ve ever had them in the same spot as me,” she said. “I know at Catawba Springs, there’s a big community feel. Everyone wants to be a part of the school. I want to continue to work on building community partnerships.”

Smith and Ashford have been longtime friends because Ashford taught Smith’s child in first grade. 

“We go way far back,” she said. “We’re still frequently in touch. I’ve watched her kids grow up, as she’s watched mine. I got to work with her in June before she left.”

Some of Ashford’s main goals in her first year are to learn the community, strengthen the partnerships the school already has and find new businesses for support.

“I also want to work with the staff and the families to learn everybody,” she said. “To get to know them all by name. I believe building the connections with the staff and families and knowing the kids by name is so important. That way, everybody feels welcomed and valued and you can start their day off knowing they’re working as a team. I also want to support the kids and the staff to keep them growing.”

While she was teaching at Catawba Springs, Ashford taught in two different rooms, both of which she’s visited. The first-grade teacher who’s currently in one of these rooms taught pre-school when Ashford was teaching first grade.

“I felt like I was coming home when I saw the room that I taught in when I first came to North Carolina,” she said. “It’s giving me a chance to be part of the community where my children go to school. There were a lot of emotions to it.”

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