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Ramona Warren, new Morgan Elementary principal

By Jill Osborn

At the end of the day, many people clock out of their job. Not Ramona Warren. She is on the clock at work, at home, and out in the public. “It is not easy to be the spouse or child of an educator because we don’t turn off our jobs at the end of the day or even at the end of the school year,” says the Principal of Frank Morgan Elementary. “We are educators every minute of every day.”

While Ramona’s job occupies her thoughts and time, her interest may have initially developed from a special compassion she feels for children on all levels. Perhaps, it is because she was at a disadvantage as a young student herself and remembers the stages and circumstances of her childhood keenly. “I moved 13 times by the time I was 13 years old. I would have been considered one of the children listed in the economically-disadvantaged subgroup that schools today are measured by each year,” says Ramona. Over the years and with each of the moves, Ramona’s mother diligently tried to improve the living conditions for Ramona and her sister. “By the time I reached middle school, my mother moved us into a more stable environment; and then, while in high school, our circumstances continued to improve.”

Nonetheless, Ramona felt the pangs of an underprivileged upbringing. However, she tried to find mentors willing to provide some intelligent guidance. “During my years in school, there were teachers that treated me in a negative manner due to our financial status and because of our family history. However, there were more that helped lift me up as a person and helped me realize that I was bright and that I was important. Teachers have the power to impact lives one way or the other.”

One person in particular who helped Ramona see the potential in herself was JRTOC instructor, Major Weld. “He saw my leadership skills and put me in situations where I grew as a leader.” While Ramona did well in high school, college seemed a distant and unattainable dream. It seemed she would go straight into the workforce. “After my high school senior year started, the counselor told me that I should apply for college.” Ramona complied and received a four-year scholarship at Lees-McRae College. “This was one time that my financial status worked in my favor. Due to my low socio-economic status and because I was a good student, I qualified for financial support at Lees-McRae College which made college possible for me.”

In college, Ramona met another mentor, Dr. Ita Kilbride. She left a lasting impression on young Ramona, “Dr. Ita Kilbride became the educator that I have modeled myself after as a teacher and principal. She taught me that it is important to be “just” and to build relationships, as well as truly put children first in all decisions.” Upon graduation, Ramona taught children with disabilities. She also continued her education, learning from other leaders along the way. “Susan Fetner was my first Principal and George Johnson was my Principal at Clemmons Middle School, both had a positive impact on my career. These and other positive relationships helped shape the person and educator I am today,” Ramona recalls.

Ramona has taught at many schools with a range of students, but her passion lies in helping students with learning disabilities or those with impoverished backgrounds. In her role as Principal at Frank Morgan, Ramona tries to, “…help the culture of Morgan continue to grow and support the parents and community so that we can provide a nurturing environment for all children, and to support teachers so they can meet the needs of all children.”

One of Ramona’s mantras: “Poverty may be a current condition for a child. It is not the child’s destination.” She tries to ingrain this philosophy in her students and teachers because she sees how important it is to teach children at a young age that circumstances do not predict their future. She is living proof.

Ramona knew education was important from a young age as a result of her mother’s influence. “My mother, who is my hero and true role model, made sure that there were books in our home no matter where our home was, and that we valued education. So, I was a good student.” In fact, while Ramona was in elementary school, her mother showed her children how important education was by earning her GED. She further exemplified her belief in education by getting an associates degree in business while Ramona was in high school.

“I am the educator I am today because my mother struggled and pulled us out of poverty, because of the positive relationships with teachers, counselors and principals, and because of the struggle of living in poverty. It made me understand the value of relationships and the value of education.” Looking back at our neighbor’s life, it appears that, even though Ramona may not have been a wealthy child in monetary terms, she was been blessed with a richness of character. In fact, one might say that her ability to overcome difficult times, and to find and listen to her mentors, highlights the caliber of her spirit.

“Your Neighbor” is a feature by Jill Osborn. If you have a neighbor everybody should know, reach Jill at jill.n.osborn@gmail.com. Also follow her blog on parenting at MuchAdoAboutMothering.com/