Pender County Principal of the Year, April Owens Perkins, loves working directly with the children and their families.
Growing up in Hertford, North Carolina, April Owens Perkins couldn’t decide whether she wanted to make nursing or education her career. Receiving a North Carolina Teaching Fellow scholarship solved her dilemma, and for the past 17 years she has soared to success in the profession.
She was named Pender County Assistant Principal of the Year in 2018 when she held that post at Rocky Point Elementary School. That same year she became the school’s principal, and in 2021 was chosen Pender County Principal of the Year.
“I am humbled and flattered that I was selected,” Perkins says. “I truly do believe with my heart that I make all the decisions based on what’s best for the children.” She adds that she tries to make sure all the families’ needs are met, “so I can place them with the right teachers and provide them with adequate support.”
In an email, Dr. Steven Hill, superintendent of Pender County Schools, writes, “April isn’t a sit-in-the office type leader. She walks the halls. She knows her students, knows their families. She places a high level of importance on personal connections. The camaraderie you feel when you’re at Rocky Point is genuine because it’s the type of environment she wants to foster. It’s that love for learning and helping students grow that makes her an effective school leader.”
Perkins admits that challenges presented to educators in 2020 because of the pandemic are still considerations in 2021. Unlike last school year, hybrid and virtual classes are not on the agenda at Rocky Point during the 2021-22 school year unless COVID-19 or quarantining requires them. However, masks for students and staff are mandatory at this time.
“We will keep the children as safe as we can in our school environment,” Perkins says. “The biggest challenge with COVID and the pandemic still in effect is making sure the students continue to grow academically in all areas.”
Her goal is to stay focused on what’s best for the children.
“That is the whole reason why I went into education in the first place,” she says. “I will continue to make decisions based on [that premise].”
Perkins, who lettered in softball, basketball and volleyball at Perquimans County High School, earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in physical education at University of North Carolina Wilmington. She taught health and physical education at Chowan Middle School in Tyner, and when she decided to move closer to Wilmington, she accepted a position as physical education teacher at South Topsail Elementary School in Hampstead. While there, the principals Leigh Anne Kapiko Faulkner and later Anna Romero-Lehrer, encouraged Perkins to pursue a degree in educational administration.
“[Perkins] absolutely was the consummate educator in all ways,” Faulkner, now principal of Tarawa Terrace Elementary School at Camp Lejeune, says. She adds that Perkins volunteered for every additional duty available to her. “Every skill set she attempted to master, she did with an amazing amount of flair and an ability to bring people together.”
Perkins says she followed the recommendation and applied for and was accepted in the North Carolina Principal Fellows Program. “That started my journey in administration,” she says. She doesn’t plan, though, to pursue an administrative position that would take her away from students.
“[Perkins] is always proven to be passionate about educating children and has been an advocate for students, especially those who are underserved,” Hill continues. “That leadership has been so important for the diverse Rocky Point community as the school continues to raise its standards within our district.”
“She is concerned with diversity, equity and inclusion,” Faulkner says. “People with a heart for leadership of that ilk are absolutely priceless and add value to every organization that they elect to be part of.”
Perkins and her husband, Deron, a machinist at General Electric in Wilmington, live in Leland with sons Amari, 8, and Khalil, 11. Sons Davon and Jalyn are grown.
In addition to her duties at Rocky Point, Perkins is a coach on Amari’s Dixie Youth baseball team. Some of her favorite activities are watching Khalil and Amari play baseball, going to the beach and spending time with her children.
As an educator, she says, “I just want to continue to make a difference for our children for tomorrow. I like interacting with children on a daily basis.”
She especially cherishes the hugs the children give her.
It lets me know that I still have positive rapport with them,” she says. When one student asked if she was leaving the school, she replied, “No, I’m staying right here with you.” The student replied, “That makes me so happy.” Perkins says comments like that make her “smile inside and out.”