Archer Lodge Middle School principal Dr. Betsy Huddleston is a firm believer in setting goals. Responsible for nearly 1,000 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students, she hopes her experiences can serve as an example to encourage others to always follow their dreams.
Q: When did you get your start in the education field?
My intentions were to go to college after high school. Instead I got married, opened my own business and started a family. When my children were independent, I finally decided what I wanted to be when I grew up. At the age of 40, I went to East Carolina University full- time and completed an undergraduate degree in elementary education. I taught 6th grade math for four years in Pitt county. Then I applied to the principal’s fellows program at ECU. I became an administrator in Johnston County in 2002. Two years ago I earned my doctorate from Fayetteville State University.
Q: How long have you been principal of Archer Lodge Middle school?
I was actually here before the building was built. My husband is a pilot and we would fly over the site as it was being excavated. I would take pictures over time of the construction process. It really connected me with the building. When we opened in 2007 I was a vice principal. This is my second year as principal.
I am charged with educating these children the best way possible. It’s a challenge but an exciting one.
Q: Working with pre-teens and teenagers is a delicate age. How do you relate to these young adults?
The two things I stand by are high expectations and truthfulness. I will always offer that to the students. I want them to know if they ask me a question I with give them an honest answer.
I love this age group and watching their transformation from elementary to high school students. They will have defined who they’re going to be by the time they leave us. I feel like a proud parent with a whole lot of kids.
Q: I heard you took an interesting vacation over winter break.
I had the opportunity to go to Sydney, Australia because my son was sent there with his business. His apartment is located at Sydney Harbor overlooking the Opera House and bridge. We were there for New Year’s Eve and got to be a part of that celebration. I’ve seen a lot of firework displays but not anything like that!
Q: Did you incorporate aspects of your trip into educational opportunities for the students?
Before I left I started a blog. Every day I would update it with pictures and places from where we’d been and offer opportunities for students to ask questions. I had over 2,000 hits. I was surprised. I was still over there when the students returned from break and teachers would show the page to the class on the Smart Board. They researched the area’s wildlife and we would talk about it. We talked about students in Australia having to make decisions about their future by 10th grade. Some of them weren’t happy to hear about that!
They also compared the climate. It was summer and one day it was 107 degrees and the next it only reached 72 degrees. We also talked about time zones and I brought money back to show them. There was a lot of conversation that came from it each day and I felt like I was still connected to the school.
Q: Describe what you were like in middle school.
I was very quiet and a good student but didn’t have self-confidence. I don’t remember it in a negative light.
Q: You’re known for wearing colorful sneakers. Is there a story behind that?
I put in a lot of miles each day in the building so I decided to get some comfortable footwear. The children are fascinated by it and it’s a good talking point. I have several pairs of tennis shoes including teal, pink, purple, electric green and navy. I can go a million miles and feel fine at the end of the day.
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love photography and am very serious about it. I also can sew anything. We live along the river and I like to kayak. I’m also very involved with my grandchildren.
I have also drawn out sketches for a line of children’s clothing. I may go that way one day. I’m not finished yet and haven’t stopped setting goals for myself. I just do what comes next.
Correspondent Laura Crosio