• Diana Matthews

County Principal of the Year seeks out exciting adventures


“My goal for this year is to try or do something new and exciting each month,” said Leslie Faulk, principal of Cerro Gordo Elementary School. Faulk set that goal well before her colleagues in the Columbus County Schools voted her principal of the year for 2018-2019. “It’s my personal resolution,” she said.

Her family made a trip to a UNC-Chapel Hill basketball game one month and tried Rioz, a Brazilian restaurant at the beach, another time. She said the priority is to experience quality time and a change in the routine.

“My mother, Miriam Haynes, was my inspiration to become an educator,” Faulk said. “She was an elementary school teacher and taught school a total of 43 years. Although she is retired, she still tutors students in reading and math at her home. She has devoted her entire life to helping children be successful academically. She is passionate about teaching, and her love for children and teaching has been passed down to me.”

Faulk earned her B.S. in Biology from UNCW with a 9-12 general science education certification, then went on to achieve an M.A. in Administration from Gardner Webb University.

“In addition,” she said, “I earned Coaches University certification offered through N.C. New Schools and Sandhills Principal’s Leadership certification/” In Faulk’s 21-year education career so far, she has taught science (Biology I and II, Chemistry, Earth Science, and Physical Science) for 14 years at the high school level. She was lead teacher for three years at West Columbus High School before becoming a K-8 administrator.

Faulk believes that, “Cerro Gordo Elementary School is special because we are one big family. We care about our students and take the time to build personal relationships with them and their families. We want to provide our students with a quality education, but to also meet their social and emotional needs.

“In spite of the challenges of the job, it is the love for the children that keeps me coming back. I know I can’t give up because a child needs me.”

CGES is one of the two Columbus County Schools campuses where construction projects will change the scenery dramatically over the next two or three years.

The school’s oldest and middle aged buildings will be replaced; meanwhile students will occupy the newest wing. At the end of construction, students from Evergreen and Chadbourn will move in to join the Cerro Gordo students.

Faulk said that she and her staff are excited about the updates coming. Consolidating “will mean more resources” for education, she said. “We have a great staff here, but we feel the pinch.”

Time management is another pinch for the busy principal, wife and mother. “The most challenging part of the job is finding a balance between home and work. It is more than a job for me,” Faulk said. “I am constantly thinking about ways to improve the learning experience for my students. I can’t help it. It is a part of who I am.

“ She enjoys spending her free time with her husband, Jerry, and their children Tucker, Dawson, Emily, Justin and Alyssa. “Over the years, my children have participated in various extracurricular activities including baseball, basketball, football, dance, and cheer. I am their biggest fan and love watching them,” said Faulk.

“Jerry and I spend a lot of time traveling back and forth to these events supporting them in their endeavors. I also enjoy relaxing at the beach in the summer reading a good book and taking adventures to places far and near.”


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