When kindergartners arrive for their first day of school at Decatur’s Carson Elementary, they will be greeted by a smiling Stephanie Quarles, who one day made a similar journey across town.
The 1993 Decatur graduate, who attended class in the district from kindergarten through high school, is now the Carson principal.
“I’m so excited,” she said. “We have a lot of great things planned. The most important part is to make them feel welcomed. This is a new, great adventure.”
For Quarles, the adventure arrives at a pinnacle in her 15th year in education, which included nine years as an elementary teacher and six as an administrator. She spent the past two years as the assistant principal at McCarroll Middle School in Decatur.
“This was my goal when I set out in education,” Quarles said about becoming an elementary principal.
“My nine years teaching was in elementary, and most of my administrative work has been at the middle school. This is home. I’m very excited to be back at the elementary.”
Quarles replaces Kyle Sorg, who left after last year to take a job in his home state of Colorado. She credits Sorg with leaving her with a great campus that she hopes to add to.
“This campus is already fantastic,” she said. “The previous administration was doing so many great things. I’m so excited to be part of that.”
Quarles was one of 105 applicants for the post. She was the unanimous choice of a search committee, and of an independent consultant who interviewed the three finalists.
“That confirmed she was the choice,” said Decatur Superintendent Rod Townsend. “She loves kids and has a tremendous amount of energy.
“She brings a tremendous amount of knowledge and is an outstanding administrator.”
Townsend said Quarles has worked hard to incorporate the use of technology in the classroom and helped teachers engage their students. But what truly stands out to him is Quarles’ passion for her students.
“She’s very supportive of her teachers, but her first concern is the kids,” Townsend said.
Along with a love of kids, there’s also a deep-rooted love for Decatur in Quarles. That love of her hometown brought her back after teaching and getting her first administrative job in Keller.
“My dad and grandparents are from here,” she said. “My extended family is here. We gained so much by moving back here. I love it. Our kids love it.”
Her mother, Susie Dickenson, was a former fourth-grade teacher in Decatur. She retired this spring from another district.
Quarles will have a child of her own on her campus for the first time – third-grader Brady.
After several years at the middle-school level, Quarles is looking forward to the personal interaction with the younger students, including the occasional hugs.
She loves her role as an administrator, but Quarles admits she does miss the classroom.
“I miss it so much,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun. I try to be in the classroom and teach lessons when I can.”
While she misses the everyday teaching in a classroom, she said she gains so much as a principal with the interactions with students, teachers and parents.
As the first day of school Aug. 27 approaches, Quarles still has a lot to do. But her enthusiasm continues to grow with each passing day to do what so many did for her throughout her time attending Decatur schools.
“I get the chance to be the positive role model for kids,” Quarles said.