Even in third grade, Courtney Wynn ’15 knew her future career.
“When everyone was saying, ‘I want to be a princess,’ and ‘I want to be an actor,’ I thought, ‘I’m going to be a teacher,’” she recalled.
But for the education major, it was Endicott guest speaker Dr. Salome Thomas-EL that inadvertently inspired Wynn, a Connecticut native, to beeline to Delaware.
A renowned speaker and bestselling author, Principal EL as he’s lovingly known, oversees Thomas Edison Charter School in Wilmington, where Wynn now teaches first grade.
“Sophomore year, he came to speak to us and I thought, wow, this guy gives off great vibes, I’m all about what he talks about, how he vibes with his students and the staff,” she said. “So, I went up to him and said, ‘I’d like to work with you. Can I have your card?’”
When junior year came around, Wynn reached out to Principal EL with the hopes of securing a senior internship at Thomas Edison.
“The thing that stuck out to me was him saying that students who need the most love show it in the worst ways, and they ask for it by acting out and making poor choices,” she said. “They just need somebody to take that time. I have the time, so why not give it to kids who need it?”
For two weeks, Wynn heard nothing from Principal EL. “Crickets,” she said.
Determined, she approached late President Richard E. Wylie for help.
“I said, ‘I know you know Principal EL. Can I CC you on this email so he takes me seriously? I want to work with this guy.’ About 10 minutes later, Principal EL responded and said, ‘Yes, call the school. Let’s get some more info.’”
“I sure do remember that day,” Principal EL said of that initial meeting with Wynn at Endicott. “So many students came up to say hello, but I remember her saying she was so impressed with the story of our students overcoming the odds and would love to stay in touch.”
But Principal EL admitted that he often hears those pleasantries and didn’t think too much of Wynn’s enthusiasm.
“Then Dr. Wylie reached out, rest in peace, and wanted me to consider her,” he said. “I spoke with the deans and it was a go. She completed her student teaching and wowed the teachers and staff and our entire community. I had to offer her a job!”
But teaching very young students wasn’t Wynn’s idea of fun. “I told them I wanted grades three through five. They gave me first grade and I went, ‘Ooh, I don’t know if I can deal with the nose-picking and all that stuff.’ And then I came here and I haven’t left first grade since,” Wynn said.
Wynn has now been at Thomas Edison for eight years, where “she took the time to learn about the students and their culture, and then developed strong relationships with the families,” said Principal EL. “She is such a powerful force in her classroom and won’t let any student give up on themselves.”
“I’m a lifer,” said Wynn, who is flirting with the idea of a master’s degree in leadership. “I’ll be there for the rest of my life. If I retire, then I’ll be done. But I’m not leaving this classroom. I’m not leaving this school.”