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Unaka Elementary School welcomes Stephen Garland as new principal

BY BRITTNEE NAVE
STAR CORRESPONDENT
Stephen Garland is Unaka Elementary School’s new principal. 
Garland, who has worked in education for 22 years, said teaching runs in the family. 
“My grandparents and my mother were educators in Carter County which sparked my interest, but I have always enjoyed fixing things and making improvements,” he said. “There is nothing more rewarding than empowering children and teachers with knowledge.”
Throughout his two-decade-long career he has worked in Carter County.
Garland started as an administrative aid at Hunter Elementary, where he was a teacher for nine years, and then an assistant principal for seven years. For the last five years, he was principal at Happy Valley Elementary. 
Garland reflected on his time at Happy Valley Elementary after the many years he had spent at Hunter Elementary, saying he received a warm welcome. 
“The community of Happy Valley accepted me as the leader of Happy Valley Elementary for five wonderful years,” he said. 
He went on to say he has been particularly proud of working in elementary school settings. 
“Working exclusively with elementary students and teachers was a great experience for me,” he said. “It allowed me to concentrate on early literacy. I worked with the faculty and staff on gap closures and left the school as a Reward School.”
On the transition to Unaka Elementary, he calls it “coming home.”
”Unaka has a special place in my heart because it is where my mother taught and where I went to elementary school,” he said. 
Garland also felt it was the right decision as he and his wife are building a house in Stoney Creek.
 
Garland said he hopes to empower both students and teachers in his new role. He believes students need a strong foundation of knowledge for success, as well as teachers who need the best materials to instruct.
He also wants teachers to develop classroom communities, and partnerships between parents and community members to enrich learning. 
In resuming the new role during COVID-19, Garland says flexibility and patience among guardians, as well as the school following guidelines, are key to combating the uncertain times. 
To the parents, guardians, and students of Unaka Elementary, Garland has a message. 
“I want the parents and the community to know that I am on their child’s side,” he said. “I consider what’s best for the student every time I make a decision.
“My whole career has been dedicated to making students successful. That means we all make sacrifices for the betterment of our students. Our school is dedicated to offering a safe learning environment where children come first.”