The Head of the Class
Leland Middle School welcomes a new principal, Dr. Kimberly McDuffie.
Becoming an educator was a natural progression of careers for new Leland Middle School Principal Dr. Kimberly McDuffie. The Currie, North Carolina, native was raised to share her talents with others — whether it is singing, spreading positivity or bringing folks together. She sought out jobs in which she served others until she found the place where she could make the most impact on people — back in the classroom.
After earning her bachelor of science in business administration from Mount Olive College and her master of business administration from Liberty University, McDuffie wore a variety of hats. She worked at the New Hanover County Superior Court Judges Office as a judicial assistant and also as a property manager. She served in the United States Navy as a religious program specialist and at the Naval Training Center in Orlando, Florida, and has been an adjunct faculty member of Remington College and Miller Motte, where she taught courses in psychology, business and leadership. She was also a professional gospel singer for a few years, traveling around the United States and appearing on the Word Network Channel in Las Vegas.
In 2004 she shifted gears and settled in as a Career and Technical Educator (CTE) at Ashley High School. In 2011 her principal, Dr. Kenneth Bowen, encouraged her to become an administrator and he still serves as one of her mentors today. It was where she also earned her National Board Certification in adolescence through young adult Career and Technical Education and later completed her doctorate in education and masters in educational psychology from Walden University.
Her next role was dean of students in New Hanover County before she moved into an assistant principal position in Onslow County. “Every experience in my career has led me to this moment,” she says.
Her son, Kendric, and grandson, Carter, are extremely important to McDuffie, and this career move has placed her closer to Carter.
“There is nothing better than being his Nana,” she says.
She has a close relationship with her sisters and has found a silver lining in using remote-learning technology. She recently participated in a Zoom reunion with her cousins from all over the United States. “There were so many of us online and it was hard to hear everybody, but it was fun!” she says.
The move to Leland has been a smooth transition with support from the district and the local community.
“My first week here at Leland, I was overjoyed by the welcome from everyone,” she says. “It solidified my belief that with good communication and community partnerships, we can accomplish anything.”
Local groups like Crosswinds Church, Communities in Schools, the Kiwanis Club and Cape Fear Voices have also been instrumental in making McDuffie feel right at home. “The extended support here is amazing,” she says. “Leland Middle School is a better place because of this community.”
McDuffie is a firm believer that transparent communication is key to success. She has received emails and phone calls from parents and members of the community, but it was a drop-in visit from a local senior citizen that really made her feel welcome.
“This person just wanted to make sure I have everything I need here — I have never before experienced this warm of a welcome in my career,” she says.
Passionate about the students she serves and the well-being of staff and faculty, McDuffie stresses the importance of being positive and sharing that with everyone.
“The social-emotional well-being of everyone is of the foremost importance right now above everything,” she says. “We must purposely remain engaged with everyone, especially now with the added difficulty of navigating through a national pandemic.”
McDuffie is impressed with how Brunswick County Schools has managed the challenges within the school district.
“The superintendent listens to us and supports those who are in the trenches every day,” she says.
Each Friday McDuffie gathers online for a breakfast meeting with her students, just to talk about their weekend plans.
“This is my way of staying connected through social distancing,” she says.
Middle school principals also communicate daily about different topics and concerns and have been instrumental with various supports. “This type of communication is vital, because it ensures we are managing issues as a team,” she says. “Again, something else I have never experienced before coming to Leland.”
In her first few weeks at the helm, McDuffie met with Dr. Sullivan, principal at nearby North Brunswick to have a conversation about students and to determine how they can best help each other. Her goal is to motivate and engage her colleagues, students, staff and community.
“I want to continue to uplift. I believe, right now, that is my main purpose,” she says. “Every once in a while, I will hop on the intercom and say ‘Just in case no one has told you lately, you are appreciated by Leland Middle School’. Playing morning and afternoon music is my favorite time of the day. I enjoy seeing the students dancing and bobbing their heads to the music. Sometimes, I dance with them during afternoon pick up as they wait on their ride.”
The move to Leland Middle has been exciting for McDuffie.
“Brunswick County reminds me of home,” she says. “I am excited each morning when I drive across the bridge from Wilmington to my school. I look forward to seeing the staff and students and to waving at parents. I am vested in Leland Middle School and the community.”