by Hayeon Choi
Fayette County High School is in the midst of a beautiful transition. From new facilities to a massive renovation, the county’s first high school is embarking on a bright future, and the Tigers will be doing it with a new leader in Principal Yolanda Briggs-Johnson.
“I’m honored. Grateful. Appreciative for the opportunity,” Johnson said. “I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited about this school year.”
At the beginning of summer break, when all the teachers and students were heading off to enjoy the vacation, Johnson was announced as the new principal of Fayette County High School. It was a position she had wanted for a while.
“It’s the first high school in Fayette County. It is the Fayette County High School.” Johnson said. “I wanted to be a part of that tradition and continuing that tradition and the progress and growth that’s been started and is continuing.”
Since the announcement came at the end of the school year, Johnson did not have an opportunity to be introduced to the faculty and staff, so she took getting to know her Tigers into her own hands. Johnson made time to have “Tiger Talks” with the faculty and staff over the course of the three days. From eight in the morning to five in the afternoon, Johnson met with anyone in the Fayette family that wanted to talk with her. She had a chance to meet with the faculty and staff from teachers to custodians to cafeteria manager and cafeteria workers to paraprofessionals.
“I shared with them, that I want to observe and I want to assess what’s going on in the building. What’s going really well and what are some things that we have some growth opportunities [in],” Johnson said.
Like most principals, Johnson already had experiences in the field of education working at the elementary, middle, and high school level, before becoming a principal. As a speech-language pathologist, she had worked with students who needed support in the area of speech or language.
Ever since Johnson was five years old, she wanted to become a teacher. With a love for elementary school, she worked in Fulton County for nine years. When Johnson had the opportunity to work at JC Booth Middle School in Peachtree City, she also fell in love with the middle school students. When Bennett’s Mill Middle School opened, she went to help the administrative team and other teachers.
Next, Johnson got the opportunity to intern as an administrator at McIntosh. The experience at the high school level made Johnson feel at home. A year later, Johnson was hired at Whitewater HIgh School, where she worked as an assistant principal for six years.
“No matter what the age, I love students, I love children. I love helping them to get to the next level, whether it’s pre-kindergartener or an 18-year-old senior graduating,” Johnson said. “I just like that whole process and just making sure they have the tools that they need to be successful.”
WIth a background as a teacher and an administrator, now as Principal of Fayette County High School, Johnson wants to foster an environment where students feel and believe that they are supported and that people in the building care about them.
“I wanted to teach students, I wanted to get to know my students and make connections so that I can have those lifelong relationships with them,” Johnson said. “More importantly, when they look back, they can think, ‘Who are some people who helped to shape me and mold me and really were impactful during my journey as a young person going into adulthood?'”
As this is Johnson’s first year as a principal, she wants to observe and assess the students, while teaching the standards and learning about them.
“My theme is getting back to the basics, standards-based instruction, cultural proficiency,” Johnson said. “In other words, teach the standards, get to know your students and like your students because this is education and I feel like, for me, that’s why I got into education.”