Embarking on a new adventure

MONROE – Kim Fisenne loves school.As far back as she can remember, Fisenne enjoyed “playing class” with her younger brother – she was always the teacher and he was always the student – and simply being a student herself.

School has continued to be Fisenne’s passion throughout her adult years, as she’s earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and is currently working on her doctorate at Wingate University.

“I’m one of those people who continuously likes to learn and take classes,” Fisenne said. She hopes to use her own experience as a student, teacher and administrator to instill a love of learning in the students at Central Academy of Technology and Arts – where she recently accepted a position as head principal.

But Fisenne didn’t always have the goal of becoming a school administrator. In fact, she didn’t even start out as a teacher.

Fisenne earned a degree in biology from Hobart and Williams Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y., and spent time doing research in biotechnology before she realized what she really wanted to do was teach.

After moving to North Carolina, Fisenne enrolled in a lateral entry program and worked as a biology teacher at West Charlotte High School. Although being a teacher by day and a student by night was tough at times, Fisenne said it was a valuable experience that prepared her for her future.

“When you’re a lateral entry teacher … as you’re starting to teach, learning strategies teachers go through is more trial and error, but I think that’s how all good teachers are,” she said.

After teaching at West Charlotte High, Fisenne realized there was more she wanted to accomplish. Noticing her “knack for problem solving” and desiring to have an impact on a greater student body, as well as fellow teachers, she decided to pursue a career in administration. When offered an assistant principal position at Sandy Ridge Elementary School, Fisenne jumped at it.

Though elementary school was a completely different environment than high school, Fisenne believes her time at Sandy Ridge Elementary was “truly … one of the most valuable experiences,” she said. “When you work at an elementary school, you really have the ability to focus on instruction and the learning process. It helped me instructionally, and it helped me become a better leader.”

Plus, she enjoyed the hugs and high fives she received from her elementary students as they passed each other in the hall.

“They respect their teachers; they’re a captive audience and soak it all in,” Fisenne said.

Fisenne spent about four years at Sandy Ridge before taking an assistant principal position at Marvin Ridge High. After five years, she had the opportunity to take her first head principal position at Central Academy, or CATA as it’s commonly known, and officially took office earlier this summer.

The past couple of months have been busy, Fisenne said, but she’s excited about the upcoming school year. One of the things she loves about CATA is that it’s a magnet school and allows students to concentrate on specific areas of study – such as engineering, dance and theater, to name a few.

“Even if they don’t end up doing something (with their field of study), they gain so much knowledge in that area,” Fisenne said.

She added, “I think the fact that they have the arts so incorporated throughout the school is so great. When a child has a passion for arts, we need to feed it, so (CATA) is a great place for students who have that interest.”

Reflecting on her years in education, one of Fisenne’s greatest memories occurred last school year and involved a student who had “made some mistakes” and ended up having to serve time. Before he was sentenced, the student “really turned his life around,” Fisenne said.

Although the student wasn’t present for his senior year, Fisenne and other administrators worked to help him complete his classes while incarcerated through a distance learning program. Fisenne and a counselor had the chance to visit the student and award him his diploma in the spring.

“Any child can learn; you just have to find a way to make it happen,” she said. “I was glad to be a small part of that process.”

Looking ahead, Fisenne’s goals are focusing on how students and teachers at CATA can work together to improve learning, encouraging the student body to become more involved and strengthening student groups. She’s also looking forward to attending games, chorus and band concerts, stage productions and more special events.

“I actually love to do those after-school activities,” she said. “That’s what I’m really looking forward to this year.”

In what little spare time she has, Fisenne enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, as well as catching up on her television shows during the weekends.

“I’m thankful I have DVR,” she said.

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