No matter where she’s worked, Zebulon Middle School principal Dalphine Perry has caught the attention of others for the passion she puts into her work. When she’s looking for teachers, she wants that same kind of attitude.
Q: You were recently in the running for Wake County Principal of the Year. You have also received accolades at other schools where you were at the helm. To what do you attribute this recognition?
A: When I was a principal in Wilson County, I was principal of the year, and I was honored this year to be recognized as one of the finalists for Wake County. I have just always been a strong advocate for public education. I just love schools, and I love children. You just have to love this profession. Ever since I was a little girl in elementary school myself, I loved the school atmosphere and the environment for learning.
Q: Before you stepped into the administration role, you were a teacher. What did you teach and at what grade level?
A: I was a teacher for 10 years before I became an assistant principal. I taught middle school language arts, math, science – I taught it all.
Q: You wore many hats – that can be rare.
A: When I graduated from college, I was certified in all areas – I was determined to get a job (laughing).
Q: You have stayed close to middle school. You often hear that middle school can be a tough age to teach – with so much maturity yet to develop and the hormones raging. Why did you choose middle school as your niche?
A: I remember being in middle school, and that can be a tough age. For some of them, especially girls, you can be friends one day and not be friends the next. Students start being concerned about their looks and what they wear – and they notice what others are wearing. When I started teaching in middle school and seeing this, all those memories from my days in middle school came back. I was hoping I could help the students through what can be a difficult time.
Q: You taught for many years in Wilson and then came to Wake County. What brought you here?
A: I had friends of mine who worked in Wake County, and they said it was a good county to work in. I just felt like I wanted to grow professionally.
Q: Many principals take different paths to get to know their students better – like eating lunch with them or guest-teaching in a class. What do you do to build relationships with your students?
A: I travel around the campus. I take the time to talk to them. When I ask them how they are doing, they know I sincerely want to know. I just stop and take the time to hear them out. I tell them if they ever have any concerns, my door is open and they can speak to me.
Q: What do you do in your spare time?
A: I enjoy working in my church. I am involved in the Kappa Alpha sorority. I enjoy spending time with my family. I have a wonderful husband who is retired, and I have one son who is now a student at UNC-Greensboro. I like to travel. One of my favorite trips is a trip we took to Niagara Falls. I have not traveled out of the country, but I hope, when I retire, I will do more extensive traveling.
Q: Zebulon Middle is the site of the former Shepard High School, which was the high school for African-Americans during the days of segregation. Now fast forward 50 years or so, and there is an African-American female at the helm at the school. What are your thoughts?
A: We had Shepard School alumni visiting our campus just the other day, and they were telling us how their parents were teachers at the school. Our staff will hopefully be working with them and compiling a history of the school and how far it has come.
Q: With so much in the news lately about teacher pay and recognition, what would you tell someone who is considering entering the education field?
A: I would have to tell them that it has to be a passion. I knew when I was young where I wanted to spend my days. There has to be a deep love of schools and education. Often, when I see leaders here at this school, I stop and talk to them and ask them if they have ever thought about working at a school. We need leaders. You have to love to be around people and you have to truly want to make a difference. I know it might sound trite, but that is really what it is all about.
Correspondent Dena Coward