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UCPS announces 2024-2025 Assistant Principal of the Year finalists

On Monday, March 11, senior leaders at Union County Public Schools recently made surprise visits to five assistant principals, revealing they were finalists for the Assistant Principal of the Year award. During the unexpected visits, finalists received balloons and personalized signs.

The role of an assistant principal is crucial to the success of any school, supporting the principal and working with teachers, staff, parents and students to create a positive and productive learning environment.

One finalist will be named the 2024-2025 Principal of the Year during an awards program on May 9.

Among the unsuspecting honorees were Elizabeth Gobble of Weddington Middle, Debbie Mayer of Sun Valley High, Dr. Michelle Newnam of Central Academy of Technology and Arts, Elizabeth Griffin of Shiloh Valley Elementary and Todd Swackhamer of Sardis Elementary.

At Weddington Middle, Elizabeth Gobble expressed her gratitude for the recognition. "I am deeply honored and humbled," she said. "I love working with our family here; it's what I call us. We always come together, no matter the good or bad days; we have a culture of positivity. It's a thrill to come into this building every day."

Over at Sun Valley High, Debbie Mayer was called to the school office by her principal under the guise of a parent's request. "I am excited to represent our school," Mayer remarked, her eyes shining with emotion. "Everything I do is for the kids."

Meanwhile, at Central Academy of Technology and Arts, Dr. Michelle Newnam was with a colleague when Dr. Jonathan Tyson, the director of school performance, told her the news. Newnam expressed her appreciation for the honor and shared one of the programs she has helped build. "I have been working on using the capital of our students as peer tutors for about seven or eight years," she said. "It helps peer tutors develop leadership, collaboration and communication skills."

At Shiloh Valley Elementary, Elizabeth Griffin walked to the front office expecting to see a parent. Griffin reflected on the traits she works to exemplify. "I am honored and a little caught off guard," she said. "My leadership style is to be patient, understanding, available and communicating frequently."

Lastly, at Sardis Elementary, Todd Swackhamer's eyes widened and a big smile appeared when he realized what was happening. "I am honored and shocked," he said. "I've been an assistant principal for 10 years and I love working with kids."

Find out a little more about the honorees.

Dr. Michelle Newnam - Central Academy of Technology
Dr. Michelle Newnam has been the assistant principal of Central Academy of Technology since 2022. With over 12 years of experience in educational leadership, Dr. Michelle Newnam has also served as an assistant principal at various other schools, including Porter Ridge High and Waxhaw Elementary. During her time in leadership roles, she has introduced programs like the Peer Tutor Model and collaborations with nearby schools to build more opportunities for students to teach and learn. Her approach to leadership emphasizes building relationships and problem-solving, prioritizing improvement over blame.



Todd Swackhamer - Sardis Elementary
Todd Swackhamer has been the assistant principal at Sardis Elementary since 2022. He is in his 24th year of education with UCPS. Swackhamer spent 14 years teaching at Marshville Elementary in kindergarten, first and third grade. During his teaching career, he spent 10 years coaching baseball at Forest Hills High, four as the junior varsity head coach and the final six years as the varsity head coach. Swackhamer began his administrative career as an assistant principal at Unionville Elementary before joining the administrative team at the Health Sciences Academy at Monroe Middle.



Elizabeth Griffin - Shiloh Valley Elementary
Elizabeth Griffin has been the assistant principal at Shiloh Valley Elementary since 2021. Griffin, originally from Bayport, NY, transitioned to teaching in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) after relocating to North Carolina. With nine years of experience in CMS, she joined Union County Public Schools at Rocky River Elementary. Throughout her career, she has served in various capacities, including teacher, curriculum coordinator, and assistant principal at the Health Sciences Academy at Monroe Middle School.



Debbie Mayer - Sun Valley High
Debbie Mayer has been the assistant principal at Sun Valley High since 2021. Mayer has been an educator for 19 years in many roles, including teacher, instructional coach and interim assistant principal. She has served Marvin Ridge Middle, Porter Ridge Middle, Sun Valley Middle, and Sun Valley High School in her 15 years with Union County Public Schools. She has also taught in three states.




Elizabeth Gobble - Weddington Middle 
Elizabeth Gobble has been the assistant principal at Weddington Middle since 2018. Gobble joined the school's staff as the sixth-grade assistant principal and special needs administrator after teaching Language Arts there for numerous years. Before teaching at Weddington Middle, Gobble taught at Holy Trinity Catholic Middle and at Princeton Middle when she and her family moved back to West Virginia for a brief stint.