Principal reflects on her first year on staff

In the calm before the storm, principal Amy Boughton stands in the hallway just before school starts to welcome students. The bell rings, and a flood of students rush through the main hallway. She feels pure joy as she gives high fives and guides the stragglers to their first period classes. Celebrating and providing guidance for her students – that is the part of her job that Boughton said she loves and now misses the most.

Prior to being principal at Hebron, Boughton spent 20 years gaining experience as a teacher, assistant volleyball coach, assistant principal and eventually middle school principal. While she was working on her masters, and now her doctorate, she continued increasing her roles and responsibilities in order to get as much experience as possible.

“[Former Hebron principal Scot] Finch had been a mentor of mine, and I always looked up to him and his leadership style,” Boughton said. “When he decided to retire, I knew that this would be my only opportunity to become a head high school principal. I had to go for it, all in.”

The first time she met some students was at her introduction at the school board meeting last June. She was shocked and appreciative of the groups that sent representation and the kind messages she received through email from the students and parents. 

“Being able to be a part of a school where each program is driven to such a high level of success – those kinds of expectations aren’t everywhere,” Boughton said. “It’s a really unique combination to be one of the most diverse campuses out there and be one of the most successful. I think it says a lot about the students, parents, faculty, administrators and counselors.”

Due to the size of the student body, Boughton said she does not get to have as many personal connections with each student as she would like. She tries to ensure that every moment with a student is important.

“Each [student] has multiple friends and siblings,” Boughton said. “So I just try to make sure that every interaction I am able to have with authenticity and the spirit that I bring.”

This school year has not been a conventional one due to many circumstances, namely the challenges that come with the coronavirus crisis. Boughton has learned many lessons throughout her first year as principal.

“I’ve learned a lot about trusting the [staff] because in a school this size, it is impossible to know what’s going on with everyone all of the time,” Boughton said. “We hire the absolute best people for the job because you have got to be able to trust that they’re going to uphold these expectations and carry the same standard and traditions that have been in place.”

As her first year as principal comes to a close, Boughton said one of her goals for the future includes improving celebrations for the different cultural months, like Spanish Heritage Month and Black History Month, and build on what she started this year and the traditions already been in place. 

“I’ve learned so much from the students about embracing [the] diversity of all types, whether it be socio-economic, cultural or ethnic,” Boughton said. “What I love seeing as I walk down the halls is that groups have all of these different types of people.”

Boughton is excited to get back to some sense of normalcy next year and is looking forward to fine arts performances, athletics, the second annual HawkFest, holiday celebrations and school dances.

“I do this job because I love the kids,” Boughton said. “I like being in a school environment, so being at home during this time and having all these Webex meetings is hard because I get my joy from high fiving kids, corralling them to their classes in the mornings, celebrating all of their successes and coaching them through mistakes.”

Boughton said she believes  after four years in the same building, things start to feel a little mundane for students, and they can get irritated by the rules, procedures and policies. The advice she wishes she had when she was in high school was to not take things for granted and try to focus on personal happiness and making the most of each day.

“I think the [rising] juniors will be able to be more self-reflective and realize how much they truly do love to be on campus with their friends and teachers,” Boughton said. “It sounds cliche, but now that we’ve all been through this, I think we’re all seeing how important that is because it can be taken away.”