Tonya Porter, the site director/coordinator of Lee County Career and Technology Center, can be found zooming in and out of classrooms and perusing the halls at school nearly all day long, ensuring students and faculty have what they need. Of course, that’s only after you find her tapping away on her computer to meet whatever the deadline is of the day.
Students are drawn to her high expectations of them and her principled leadership, actively seeking her out. It’s no wonder they’ve donned her Principal Porter.
The career educator knows the pros and cons of living in small town U.S.A. and spends each day addressing the woes that may not be apparent to the average eye.
“I was born and raised in Lee County and attended West Lee Elementary School,” says Porter. “I attended the public schools of Sumter County and graduated from Sumter High School.”
That experience was enough to give Porter special insight into the requirements necessary to lead her students but she went further. She earned an associate’s degree in liberal arts and a bachelor’s in criminology from Saint Leo University on Shaw Air Force Base and a master’s in public administration with a minor in human resources along with 30 hours toward a second masters. The lifelong learner has spent as much time in a desk learning as she has in the forefront. She will soon complete her certification to become a high school principal.
By many accounts, she is already a principal as she leads the various programs at the Center including:
- Arts, Audio/Visual Technology, and Communications
- Automotive Technology
- Business Education
- Early Childhood Education/Teacher Cadets
- Foods and Nutrition
- Health Science
- Hospitality and Tourism Management
- Welding Technology
Admittedly not yet as crafty as some of the students in the area of technology, Porter is well on her way. In her estimation, technology is to be used in efforts to provide equity.
“It allows students to learn at their own pace, keeps them engaged, sparks endless creativity, has the ability to enhance relationships between teachers and students and has become a necessity to succeed outside of primary and secondary education,” says Porter.
At any given time you might see her calling a student down for having their phones out and in the same breath, lifting them up for some achievement made through the use of technology. A professional development training titled, “Multimedia Basics” has allowed her to share with her students who are already well-versed in its use, with something they may not know.
The training was most useful while on field trips to the S.C. Governor’s Mansion and Chaka Khan’s Master Class of Arts, says Porter.
“My students and I were given an opportunity to use videos to provide feedback on what they were learning,” Porter adds. “Effective use of media, acting techniques and teaching, asking and developing questions to involve the students in critical thinking, time management skills and team building…”
The consummate planner, Porter further PLANS to focus on deepening content knowledge and pedagogical skills by helping students create cognitive maps, relating one idea to another in the coming year.
Porter insists it’s about making it real for students. It is important to “show students how ideas connect across fields and to everyday life. (We want to) enable students to use and enjoy their learning experiences.”