Posted: Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Filling Their Tank
“Damon Qualls has earned the respect of every person in our building and that speaks volumes about what kind of leader he is.” – Shasta Looper, Balanced Literacy Coach, Berea Middle School
Damon Qualls, sixth grade assistant principal at Berea Middle School, is the first administrator in the district to be selected to participate in Harvard University’s Improving Schools: the Art of Leadership Institute program. The institute is for school leaders in the early years of their careers who are seeking improved leadership skills and a focus on shaping a culture that supports student learning.
“I am very pleased that Mr. Qualls has been selected for the leadership program,” said Phillip Davie, Assistant Superintendent for Middle School Education. “We are looking forward to all he is going to learn, to gain best practices for students, and to bring back strategies to create a culture that increases student achievement.”
Mr. Qualls joined Berea Middle this year after 11 years as a fifth grade teacher at Alexander Elementary School. While at Alexander, Qualls led the school to receive over $150,000 in resources through DonorsChoose.org to improve every aspect of the school’s day-to-day operations. “Last May, our efforts were recognized in New York City by The Late Show host and DonorsChoose.org board member Stephen Colbert when he gave me the shock of my career and flash-funded every teacher request from South Carolina, totaling over $800,000,” said Qualls.
Since arriving at Berea Middle, he has been extremely influential, described by his peers as a leader who is in tune with his teachers and students and consistently works to “fill their tank” with daily affirmations, celebrations, and social outings.
Qualls is affecting positive change among students and staff. He introduced his middle school team to DonorsChoose.org, where teachers and other staff have acquired $26,718 in grants to enhance classroom instruction.
“When resources are not available, Mr. Qualls jumps in to assist teachers in getting what they need. He has created an excitement around instruction,” said Shasta Looper, Balanced Literacy Coach.
Matt Barron is a special education teacher at Berea Middle. He had looked into Donors Choose a few years ago, but never took the time to write a proposal. “When Mr. Qualls came in my classroom and said ‘Let’s do this,’ I was ready to learn everything I needed to know about how to write a grant that would surely be funded,” he said. Barron received funding for the first proposal, and is still applying for and receiving funding for other projects. “It’s so awesome to have random strangers who are supportive of public education teachers and are eager to help us out,” he said.
Rachel Foister, a sixth grade English Language Arts teacher, received funding to take her students to a pizza shop after a visit to the Peace Center. “This experience provided an opportunity for my students to gain life skills like how to figure gratuity for servers, how to behave in public places, and to express gratitude for those who work in the service industry,” she said.
Principal Robin Mill said Qualls brings a new vitality to the school and administrative team. “He shows our students, staff and families that he is there to support them,” she said. With his support, we have so many grants that are being funded, including a program for girls that provide them the chance to practice social skills, and a school-wide focus on Black History Month in February to raise awareness of the contributions of African Americans.”
Qualls has built a strong social media presence for #BelieveInBereaMiddle and has been instrumental in creating Mural Mania with three beautiful murals added to the walls of the school that inspire and encourage students to do their best. The murals were funded with grants from DonorsChoose.org.
“Serving the students, parents, faculty and staff of Berea Middle School this year has been an incredible experience. Every single day I look forward to the opportunity to encourage, motivate and inspire individuals to go above and beyond and they do just that, time and time again,” he said.