Mavericks welcome a Red Wolf

Donna CookWAXHAW – Donna Cook grew up loving school and the learning atmosphere.
Couple that with her “strong family background of educators” – including a mom who was a teacher and two siblings who went into the education field – and you have the perfect recipe for a teacher-turned-principal.
Cook officially took over Marvin Ridge High School as the new head principal June 16 after serving seven-and-a-half years as principal of Rea View Elementary School. Though the move is bittersweet, she’s optimistic about the future and grateful to still be a part of the same cluster of schools and have the opportunity to see some of her former students excel at a higher academic level.
“It’s definitely with mixed emotions that I do so … (but) that really tempered the sadness, to know that I would still be connected to the families and to the students I had been working with,” Cook said.
Cook realized in her senior year at Forest Hills High School that she was interested in a career in education, and attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte on a Teaching Fellows Scholarship. She secured her first job teaching at Wesley Chapel Elementary and moved to Unionville Elementary several years later.
Cook also continued to pursue further education opportunities and received a master’s degree in language and literacy and a licensure to teach academically gifted students within her first six years of teaching.
An assistant principal position came open two years after Cook joined Unionville Elementary, and she decided to pursue a career in administration. She served as assistant principal of Unionville for two years and an additional five-and-a-half years as principal.
Cook had the opportunity to help open Rea View Elementary in 2007 – something she considers the highlight of her career. She served as the school’s principal from the time the school was preparing to open to the end of the 2013-14 school year.
“I went from one of the most historical, oldest learning communities (in Union County) – one of the longest standing school communities – and moved to absolutely the newest school community that was emerging,” Cook said of her move from Unionville to Rea View, part of the Marvin Ridge cluster. “… I will always treasure that experience, and that will always be a highlight in my professional career.”
Cook’s role as a Union County Public Schools principal also has allowed her to travel globally to study other countries’ school systems while sharing her own experience working for UCPS. Her travels abroad have included trips to India, China and west Africa, among other locations.
“To deeply know the educational process of the U.S. and compare that to these very different nations (equips us) to have globally aware and prepared students,” Cook said.
The most rewarding aspect of being a teacher and an administrator has been developing relationships with the students and families of the schools and clusters she’s been part of, Cook said.
“Definitely, the highlight for me, logically, is the relationships I’ve developed being a part of some fantastic school communities from Wesley Chapel to Unionville (and the) Piedmont (cluster) and now to Rea View and Marvin Ridge,” she said.
Cook said she feels like she’s been a Marvin Ridge Maverick for years, as her husband, Bill, served as the school’s first principal, and she’s not at all worried about the future of Rea View, home of the Red Wolves.
“I feel so strong and confident in the quality of the staff there that I leave with great confidence and peace that that school is going to continue to thrive and flourish,” Cook said.

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Josh Whitener

About Josh Whitener

Josh Whitener has been with Union County Weekly since he started freelancing for the newspaper in summer 2010. He joined the paper full time in December 2011 as a staff writer and has since been promoted to Features Editor, a position that allows him to focus on Union County school and education news, human interest stories, church and religion news, special events and more. Josh graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2009 with a degree in communication studies - mass media and a minor in journalism. In his spare time, he enjoys playing and writing music and spending time with his wife, April, and son, Caleb, and their two beagles, Annie and Dori. Have a story idea or question for Josh? Contact him at josh@unioncountyweekly.com.

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