Stefan Lawrence, a graduate of Northside High School and Columbus State University, has been an English teacher at Carver High School for his entire eight-year career in his hometown of Columbus. He is the Muscogee County School District’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, selected by the Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation. He was among the 10 finalists to be the 2019 Georgia Teacher of the Year.
So why is he leaving the classroom?
The Ledger-Enquirer asked Lawrence that question Monday night, after the Muscogee County School Board unanimously approved superintendent David Lewis’ recommendation to appoint him as the assistant principal of Aaron Cohn Middle School.
“The only reason I got my doctorate in the first place is to be an advocate for kids on the systemic level,” said Lawrence, who earned his doctorate from the University of Georgia in December 2017. “There are a lot of things our kids are forced to combat every day, and a lot of those things are outside their control but are very real, like the school-to-prison pipeline, allocation of resources, things like that. I just want to get to that level where I can be a larger voice for them.”
Al Parham had been the ACMS assistant principal since the school opened in 2013. Parham was promoted to MCSD student services director after Marcus DuBose resigned.
Following the 9-0 vote, Lawrence thanked Lewis for his recommendation and the board for its confidence in him. He also thanked ACMS principal Richard Green for having faith in him and Carver principal Chris Lindsey, “who stuck with me for eight years.” And he thanked his parents and sister and the rest of his supporters in the room. The he asked them to stand.
Amid the applause, Lawrence said, “It takes a village to raise a kid. . . . I think that my story and where I’m at is a testament for what education can do. My parents are from a low-income neighborhood here, in Beallwood. They understood the value of education.”
Lawrence called education “a higher moral calling.”
He asserted, “Whether we know it or not, public education is at war. There are people intent on dismantling it. There are people that believe it has served its purpose and it’s a relic of time passed. I don’t believe that’s true.”
Trying to end generational poverty is reason enough to be “a servant of public education,” Lawrence said.
Then he asked several of his former students in attendance to stand. Another round of applause celebrated them.
“The process to end up at Aaron Cohn was a long one, and it was really tough to leave my kids — really tough, really tough, really tough,” Lawrence said. “I wrestled with that thing night and day. But I have a new family and a new batch of kids to serve, and I’m excited about it.”