The 2015-16 school year will be Amour Mickel’s first year as principal at Berkeley Middle School, but it will also be a homecoming.
After a two-year stint at Warhill High School, Mickel is returning to the school where she received her first experience as an administrator.
Geographically speaking, Mickel’s path to the Berkeley principal’s office was not quixotic, as she has stayed close to her hometown of Newport News.
Her professional path has been more of a journey.
As a student at George Mason University, Mickel was interested in education — particularly special education. The earning potential for that career path worried her, however.
“[Special education] doesn’t make a lot of money,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a broadcaster.”
Mickel began to study communication, but ultimately received her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She stayed in the Fairfax area for several years before moving back to Newport News.
Having relocated to her hometown, Mickel worked a string of jobs before transitioning to being a stay-at-home mom.
Mickel enjoyed being with her children, but she also began to look for opportunities outside the home. The answer came in a conversation with a friend.
“While I was at Mason, I took an intro to teaching class and went to schools to observe, and it felt natural,” Mickel said. “When I was in Newport News, I worked as a substitute. A friend of mine said the elementary school she worked at was hiring, and that I should apply.”
Mickel submitted an application and was hired as a teaching assistant for a special education class. After years of being intrigued by an education career, Mickel had started one.
After a few years, Mickel’s principal opened a new school, Passage Middle School in Newport News, and asked Mickel to come along as a teacher. She agreed, received her certification in special education and taught at Passage for 10 years.
While she enjoyed teaching, Mickel said she began to consider how she could have a larger effect on students’ lives. She decided to take her career to the next level, received a master’s degree in educational leadership, and sought out an administrative position.
Mickel started as an assistant principal at Berkeley, working there for three years, before spending the last two at Warhill.
Although 2015-16 is her first year as Berkeley principal, Mickel said she is comfortable in the role.
“It’s like coming back home,” she said.
Mickel said one of her main functions as principal is to be a communicator — between students, staff and parents. Coming back to a building she has experience with will help her fulfill that role, she said.
“A lot of the staff that were here [when she was at Berkeley] are still here,” Mickel said. “I have a familiarity with the building. People know how I work.”
Mickel described herself as a “relationship-builder,” and said she looked forward to getting to know the community — and reconnecting with people she already knows.
“I’ve already gotten some emails from parents,” she said. “Once I build a relationship, it doesn’t start and then stop. I try to keep it going.”
Mickel also said having been at Warhill would benefit her position at Berkeley.
“When I was at Warhill, I would see students I had had at Berkeley,” she said. “I could see the progression they had had from middle school to high school. Sometimes when you’re working with middle school students, you don’t think they’re listening, but they do, and it showed.”