A Family at Jefferson Elementary
By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
JUNE 25, 2020 – What Principal Debbie McIntyre appreciates most about Jefferson Elementary is how everyone works together to support students and their families and all the members of the staff.
“Family is the first thing that comes to mind,” McIntyre said.
“We are all working towards our common goal – to discover the greatness in each student and to support them along their education journey. We work to grow each other as adult learners, too.”
McIntyre became the principal at Jefferson Elementary in 2015. At the Core Awards in May, she was named Principal of the Year for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
“Becoming principal of Jefferson Elementary was a perfect fit for me and a dream come true as a school leader!” McIntyre said.
“Being recognized at our Core Awards Ceremony as the Principal of the Year was beyond a dream come true! I am truly honored and humbled to receive this recognition. It is a win-win for our school family at Jefferson Elementary School.”
The school system is filled with amazing principals who work hard each day with their hearts, souls and minds focused on offering the best education for our students, teachers and families, McIntyre said, and she feels that she is simply serving as a representative for all of them.
During the interview, she made a point to thank all of those who have helped her learn and develop over the years as a leader. The staff, leaders, and parents at Speas Elementary, Bolton Elementary, Southwest Elementary, and Jefferson Elementary. She shared that her first principal at Speas Elementary, Tom Gale, emailed her with congratulations for the Principal of the Year recognition and that he knew “she was a good hire” in 1987.
The people McIntyre works with at Jefferson are delighted that she has been recognized. One of them is Assistant Principal Katie McGregor, who was a finalist for Assistant Principal of the Year.
“Mrs. McIntyre is a humble, servant leader,” McGregor said.
“She selflessly serves our school with a heart of pure gold. She leads with integrity and sets the school tone of high expectations and professionalism. Mrs. McIntyre has high expectations for all of us, and, of course, herself.”
“I would venture to say she is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met. She can be seen around the school building scrubbing the bathroom floors, answering the phone at the front desk, and working one-on-one with students.”
“Above all else, Mrs. McIntyre is keenly aware of what good instruction looks like and how it should be delivered. During this time of uncertainty, I am beyond grateful to learn and lead alongside of her at Jefferson Elementary School.”
Mary Kay Thomas is the Financial Secretary at Jefferson.
“There are many wonderful attributes which describe Debbie McIntyre, but passionate is the one that stands out,” Thomas said.
“First and foremost, her dedication is to the children. Mrs. McIntyre is passionate about growing each student academically, and she works tirelessly behind the scenes, and, at the forefront, to help each child realize their potential as a student leader.”
“We, at Jefferson Elementary – a ‘Leader in Me’ school – are surrounded by her passion, and it is contagious! We all have grown because of her love, dedication and interaction with us. For one who always celebrates the positive, we are thankful, and honored, that we get to celebrate Mrs. McIntyre as Principal of the Year!”
Ekaterina Tullos is the Data Manager at Jefferson. McIntyre is a caring and kind person, Tullos said, and her sense of caring spreads to staff and students throughout the whole school.
“Mrs. McIntyre is the most deserving person of this honor!” Tullos said.
“She is very passionate about students’ emotional being! It starts with having lunch with students, having her book club with students, remembering each new student’s name and getting to know each of them, and, of course, implementing the ‘Leader in Me’ strategy that focuses on developing each individual’s strength and personality!”
“Her passion about this framework shows how much she cares about each individual student and her desire for them to be the best they can be in their lives!”
McIntyre has been an educator with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system since 1987.
Throughout her years working as a teacher, curriculum coordinator, assistant principal and principal, what has brought her the most satisfaction is seeing those “sparks” ignite in young people and working to help teachers grow.
“As I have grown in each leadership experience, helping others see and find their strengths has been a highlight. Seeing a spark in a student or teacher, then coaching him/her to ignite this spark is one of the best parts in being a leader.”
Jefferson has many teachers who are already leaders, she said. Five teachers on staff participate in the Teacher Leadership Academy, a program sponsored by The Winston-Salem Foundation in which teachers help other teachers throughout the school system in one of three ways – by opening their classrooms so that other teachers can come and observe, by working directly with another teacher as a mentor, by developing learning opportunities for other teachers.
“We have so many people who are talented and gifted educators. They enjoy leading,” McIntyre said.
Julie Miller is the Instructional Facilitator – the position once known as curriculum coordinator – at Jefferson.
“What makes Debbie McIntyre special, as an administrative leader and as a person, is that she truly believes in the great value that each of our students and staff members has,” Miller said.
“Her vision for our school is that we grow students academically and, of equal importance, is that we develop their leadership skills, voice, awareness, and self-worth. For every decision she makes for Jefferson, Mrs. McIntyre lets her vision and belief in her students' worth be her guide.”
McIntyre grew up in Winston-Salem. The family lived in a neighborhood not far from Bolton Elementary, where she went. Her father, Ralph Russell, worked in the Exxon gas station business and ran the Hawthorne Exxon service station on the corner of Knollwood Street and Hawthorne Road. (These days, you will find Café Arthur’s on that corner.)
Her mother, Barbara Russell, took care of the family and worked at Baptist Hospital in the hematology/oncology clinic. McIntyre has one younger brother, Donald, who is a supervisor at Deere-Hitachi Construction Machinery Corp.
When McIntyre was in school, students went to one high school for grades 9 and 10 and another for grades 11 and 12, McIntyre graduated from Reynolds Senior High School, as it was called then, in 1982.
Volunteering at The Children’s Center that summer not only rekindled a desire to become a teacher but also gave her a focus. Although students without disabilities go to The Children’s Center, the concentration is on students with disabilities and McIntyre decided that she wanted to work with students in the EC (Exceptional Children) program.
After graduating from Appalachian in 1986, she went to work right away on her master’s degree specializing in teaching students with learning differences.
She married Jeff McIntyre in June 1988 after receiving her master’s degree. Jeff McIntyre is the president of McIntyre Manufacturing Groups, a metal business in Thomasville that his father founded. Jeff believes in his wife and supports her 100% as an educator who loves school. They have two children – Josh and Amanda. Both graduated from Appalachian State University.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry, Josh headed to the University of Charleston in West Virginia where he is in his third year at its School of Pharmacy.
Amanda cheered for four years at Appalachian State and majored in Elementary Education. She will begin her third year of teaching at Brunson Elementary. Amanda and her mom enjoy talking about school, and, this summer, Debbie is teaching Amanda how to garden.
Since 1989, the McIntyres have been going to Ardmore Baptist Church. She teaches a fourth-grade Sunday School class and is involved with a mission’s group. Jeff serves as a Deacon and on leadership committees.
McIntyre joined WS/FC County Schools as a teacher at what is now Speas Global Elementary School. There, she taught a self-contained classroom of fourth- and fifth graders with learning differences. She liked being able to work with the fourth graders for a second year when they became fifth graders.
She also loved being in the classroom. “I loved trying to find new ways to reach my students and I loved connecting with and getting to know them and their families,” she said.
When she became a member of the school improvement team at Speas, she discovered that she enjoyed working with colleagues in leadership roles. With the encouragement of her administrators and colleagues, she began thinking about becoming an administrator.
“I felt a pull inside…that guided me into the leadership role, “she said.
She began working on a master’s degree in school administration at Appalachian. In 1998, she took a leave from teaching, which gave her the chance to be home more with her children while finishing her degree. As part of her work on the master’s degree, she went to Bolton Elementary as an administrative intern to work with Dr. Ann Shortt.
She received her degree in 1999, and, when the curriculum coordinator at Bolton retired, she was selected for that job. “It was a very smooth transition,” she said. “You work very closely with the teachers. I saw myself as a coach and still do.”
While McIntyre was the curriculum coordinator, she organized such group activities as a writing cruise for fourth graders and a fairytale festival for third-graders. In 2006, she became the assistant principal at Bolton and, working with a team of teachers, implemented the PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) initiative.
In 2010, she became the assistant principal at Southwest Elementary and worked with Principal Mike Hayes for one year during the transition to Morgan Elementary. The next year, Matt Dixson, who is now the principal at Meadowlark Middle, was named the principal at Southwest.
“I was excited to see Debbie earn Principal of the Year honors,” Dixson said.
“I have had the privilege to work with Debbie in various capacities for the past 12 years. She is an extremely hard worker who always puts her students first. She is well-respected among her colleagues and is a go-to person to bounce ideas off of.”
“Debbie usually takes the role of cheerleader for her students and staff, so it was especially exciting to see her get recognized and honored. I know that Debbie will represent the district well as our Principal of the Year!”
At all of the schools where she worked, principals and others nurtured her and worked to help her grow, she said. At all of the schools where she worked, McIntyre said, everyone also worked to create a family atmosphere with students, staff and parents.
“I believe in everyone working together. We achieve more and better for our children when it is we…not me,” she said.
Asked whether there was anything she didn’t see coming about becoming a principal, McIntyre said that it was all the time and energy in dealing with such items as the logistics of staffing and there was so much to learn all at once during that first year.
Nonetheless, being a principal has been a rewarding experience.
“It is definitely the right fit for me,” she said. “I love to come to school each day and I love leading with our Jefferson family.”
Before retiring, Marcia Warren was the Curriculum Coordinator at Jefferson. Since retiring, she has been serving as a substitute teacher.
“Debbie McIntyre is a rare blend of each job she's had: Teacher, Curriculum Coordinator, Assistant Principal and Principal,” Warren said.
“The first job is the most direct contact with students. The Curriculum Coordinator works with teachers/students. The Assistant Principal works alongside the Principal, trying to manage the building and all in it.”
“Each job progression brings more and more responsibilities made more complex by the people involved; from students to their families, to the teachers and support personnel. Tying it all together is the school's mission statement and philosophy. It takes an excellent leader to keep all of that in focus each and every day. It takes an excellent leader to do all of that and have a thriving and joyful campus, filled with people focused on learning and growth.”
“The Principal's duties have what I call non-student friendly demands that can pull a leader away from the students. A campus is a huge capital possession! Building, grounds, personnel, budgets...each school site has to be managed well and that task takes up lots of time.”
“Debbie was only seen tending to students and families first along with teachers and support personnel. She spent her day making sure the students were everyone's priority. The other duties were tended to after hours when students and most teachers were gone. Many late nights and weekends were used to pull off the school year in a successful way.
“Her blended experiences taught her to consider the students' well-being as well as the teachers. She tried to make the days at Jefferson be all about the fun and joy of teaching. In this day and age, that is difficult to do!”
“She devotes lots of time planning ways to motivate the staff, giving them positive feedback and noting success. She devotes lots of time planning ways to motivate students, taking the time to know them personally so she can call them by name and keep up with their progress and achievements.”
“As a person, she is the kindest, most heart-warming individual I know! She is a driven person personally and gets excited about good programs and ideas. She tries to use that enthusiasm and tireless energy to make good things happen at Jefferson.”
Anna Balser is the principal at Lewisville Elementary.
“Debbie is an instructional leader who always puts kids first,” Balser said.
“One of her passions is helping her staff and students develop their leadership skills. She is fair, consistent, caring, dedicated and conscientious. She comes early and stays late!”
“Debbie goes above and beyond to make sure her school community has what it needs. I remember her always taking the time to make our campus at Southwest Elementary beautiful. She would arrange events and be right there in the middle of the group pulling weeds and spreading pine needles.”
“I have been blessed to have our career paths cross several times. We have worked together in similar roles at different schools but I was doubly blessed when we had to opportunity to serve together on a school administration team. During that time, I was able learn so much from her. I often find myself thinking, ‘What would Debbie do?’"
“Not only is she an amazing educator, but she is one of the best people I know. I cannot think of a more deserving person to represent our school district as Principal of the Year. She is a true example of all of our district's core values and I am so lucky to know her!”