"She Lets You Know She Truly Cares About You"
National Administrative Professionals Day is Wednesday April 21.
By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
APRIL 19, 2021 – Corlois Lewis is the Executive Assistant to Nicolette Grant, the Chief Academic Officer for WS/FCS.
“Corlois Lewis is the heart of our Instructional Services Division,” Grant said.
“Ms. Lewis is friendly, warm, approachable, and extremely knowledgeable. She has a wealth of historical knowledge about the work of the Instructional Services and of each staff member that has worked in the department.”
“Corlois is a consummate problem-solver who is always willing to help others. She is tenacious and will spend the time meticulously researching the root cause of problems or to find the exact paperwork to track a purchase order.”
“Ms. Lewis is our resident detective and a pure joy to work with.”
Lewis’ responsibilities include dealing with budgets and grants, providing materials and information connected to teaching requirements, and answering questions from people both within Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools and out in the community.
Doing all that and much more means that Lewis interacts with many people.
Asked whether she had any idea of just how many, Lewis said. “Hundreds of people in the course of a month – one way or the other.”
“It’s not any one thing. Whatever I need to do to help Nicolette and our department, I am happy to do.”
During the 20 years that Lewis has worked in the Instructional Services Department, she has developed a reputation as the person to ask when no one else knows the answer to a question.
Once, when someone was introducing her, the person said, “She knows everything.”
“I don’t,” Lewis said and smiled.
But she can indeed answer many, many questions.
The people who work with Lewis appreciate how well she handles her responsibilities. Even more, they appreciate her as a person.
When Iris Mudd became a Secondary Science Coach, she began working in the same area of Central Office as Lewis.
“When I think about what makes Corlois special, it is the way she lets you know she truly cares about you,” Mudd said.
“From the first day I started my position, she went out of her way to make me feel welcome and help me get adjusted. Even when we all know she is incredibly busy, which is all the time, she does not mind helping others.”
“She has an attitude of caring and compassion that contributes to our positive working environment. She is such a blessing to work with.”
Karen Garmon, the Director of Health/PE and Life Skills, is another one of many people in the department who appreciate Lewis.
“As a newcomer to this district, I quickly discovered that Corlois Lewis is the ‘glue’ that holds everything together,” Garmon said.
“She goes out of her way to help everyone, and no task is too small or large. She is well-respected by her colleagues and the one whom we lean on to point us in the right direction.”
“Corlois has a heart for people and high emotional intelligence, as she regularly provides uplifting chats in the moments, we need it most. The WS/FCS district is so fortunate to have people like Corlois Lewis.”
Lewis grew up in Southwestern Virginia, and her family can trace its roots all the way back to Jamestown.
Knowing she wanted to become a teacher, Lewis came to Winston-Salem to attend what was then Piedmont Bible College and is now Carolina University. In 1970, Lewis graduated with a bachelor’s degree in religious education and with a teaching certification.
“I wanted to go into Christian education,” she said.
She went work teaching fourth and fifth grades in a Christian school and has been working ever since.
“I have worked probably close to 50 years,” Lewis said.
After the school closed, she was offered a job as an administrator for Vogler Funeral Home. She took the job thinking she would work there only a little while before finding other work. Her plans changed as she discovered that she liked helping people in whatever way they needed during a time when they were dealing with loss.
“It become a ministry,” she said.
She met her husband, Larry, in college. In June, they will have been married for 53 years. When they decided it was time for them to have children, she stopped working outside the home.
Her husband owned an accounting business, and she would work at home helping him as she focused on raising their two children – Melissa and Jeffrey.
Melissa grew up to go to Wake Forest University. She now works as a massage therapist. Jeffrey majored in music at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and composes music.
When Lewis decided her children were old enough for her to return to the world of work outside of the home, she knew she wanted to go back into education. Her experiences as her children were growing up had deepened that sense of connection to the world of education.
“I saw a lot of wonderful teachers my children had in school, and I wanted to be part of that,” Lewis said.
“I love education and I support public education.”
Because she had not renewed her teaching certification and didn’t want to do so, she needed to find another role. In 2000 – back in the days when Central Office was off Miller Street near Forsyth Tech – she came to work in Central Office as an Administrative Assistant for the Arts Education Department.
She has worked in the Instructional Services Department ever since. In 2004, she became the Administrative Assistant to the Chief Academic Officer. During her time with the department, she has worked with eight supervisors.
People sometimes joke with her about that.
“They tell me I run them off,” she said.
Sherry Davis is the Administrative Assistant in Arts Education. She has known Lewis since before Lewis joined the school system.
“I’ve known Corlois for more than 20 years,” Davis said. “We met as band parents at North Forsyth High School, where we chaperoned the marching band at football games, competitions, and other activities.”
“Corlois is a wonderful person. She is always considerate and willing to help others in any way she can. She is smart and works extremely hard to take care of the Instructional Services Department. I feel very blessed to have Corlois as a coworker and as a very special friend.”
Recently, Lewis was promoted to Executive Assistant.
From the beginning, she has enjoyed working at Central Office and continues to enjoy the work.
“I love this job because of the professional people I work with,” she said. “Everything we do behind the scenes will hopefully translate into the classroom.”
Over the years, the shelves next to Lewis’ chair have filled with notebooks filled with pages and pages. And she has looked at every one of the pages in those notebooks.
And that’s not all of the notebooks she has dealt with. Some have been moved elsewhere over the years.
When parents have not yet gotten the answers they need, Lewis may be the one who ends up taking their calls.
She provides the answers she can and, when necessary, directs them to the people who can provide the information. Before hanging up, she says, “If you don’t get the resolution you need, call me back and we will find someone to help you.”
And she means it.
What matters most to her and what provides the most satisfaction is helping people.
Lewis stays busy outside of work.
“On the side, I do educational tours for a tour company,” she said.
Using annual leave, she leads students on educational tours to such places as Mount Vernon, Williamsburg and Washington. She particularly enjoys leading tours for students in elementary school.
Why young people in particular?
“To see their eyes and watch their reactions.”
She loves history, and, when she reads for pleasure, it’s usually something connected to history. When she puts down a book, it might be to pick up the tools that enable her to knit, embroider, cross stich and crochet.
And, when she’s goes outside, it may be work in her garden. While focusing on growing herbs, she also grows vegetable and flowers.
She also enjoys joining her family on a hike at such places as Mount Mitchell or Hanging Rock State Park.
On her list of things to do one day is looking more deeply into her family’s history.
Sally McCombs is a Support Coordinator for Teacher Academy.
“What to say about Corlois Lewis?” Mc Combs said.
“During my time in Instructional Services – as a STAR3 facilitator and director and as a PLT coach – I often encountered questions and/or problems and I always knew who would be able to answer the questions and solve the problems – Corlois Lewis!”
“What’s especially wonderful about that is that she always responded with such grace. Even though she was busy, she would take the time to help with a smile and a kind word.”
“She is a treasure.”
336.727.2696 Ext. 70114