TAMPA – Sometimes the best lessons in life might be the ones that still need to be learned.
Joshua Hodges, 37, is the new principal at Essrig Elementary School, his first time as the leader of a school. While he feels prepared to take it on, he knows there is still a lot to learn.
Hodges, who hails from West Virginia, knew when he was a child that he wanted to be a school administrator, all thanks to his teachers.
“When I was a kid in Vero Beach I saw that some of the teachers didn’t treat me the way I felt I should be treated and it bothered me,” Hodges said, only a month after stepping into his new position at Essrig. “I didn’t want to be that kind of teacher.”
Hodges eventually graduated from the University of South Florida and started teaching fourth- and fifth-grade. He liked working with kids, and his childhood idea of becoming an administrator was still on his mind.
The newly minted principal takes the reins from Theresa Campbell, who is now a “principal coach,” a relatively new position for Hillsborough County Public Schools.
And while Hodges doesn’t plan on making any major changes at Essrig immediately, he isn’t ruling anything out, either.
“Right now I am trying to focus on students as individuals,” Hodges said. “I had some great training and it’s getting easier every day. I have so many resources available to make it easy. Every situation is different and I have a great amount of resources to deal with those situations. Every kid is different, so we’ll keep things going the way they are, but there will be changes when we see a need.
“The only changes I have to make is to try to make Essrig even better.”
Hodges promises to listen to the parents whenever there is a concern. He also understands that almost every parent has concerns and most aren’t afraid to voice them.
“To the parents, their kids are the most important thing in the world,” he said. “I understand that. I am a parent myself.”
Hodges is the father of three girls, one 5-years-old, and two 6-month-old daughters. He admits he doesn’t have much of a social life outside of his family and school. Once in awhile, Hodges said, he takes his 5-year-old out fishing.
He enjoyed his first day as principal when he watched the kids come off the bus and spent the whole day introducing himself. He visited every classroom, spent lunchtime in the cafeteria, and an hour in the car line when the first day was over. He said he feels comfortable with his students and that he is starting to make sure they are comfortable with him.
But he’ll admit he still has a lot to learn.
“I don’t have all the answers yet, but I am learning,” Hodges said. “It’s always going to be about the students.’’