Lora Austin named Principal of the Year

Lora Austin named Principal of the Year
Posted on 10/15/2020

Morganton, NC – Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020


Burke County Public Schools has named Walter Johnson Middle School Principal Lora Austin the 2020-2021 Principal of the Year for the district. Austin’s fellow Burke County Public Schools principals nominated her for the honor, and she was chosen following an interview panel session.

Austin said being named Principal of the Year means more to her than any other award she has received because she was nominated and recognized by her peers. She said, “I am the biggest cheerleader for our district. I work with the best administrative partners. I can call any of the other principals to brainstorm and am there to return the favor. Of course the HIVE (Walter Johnson Middle School) is No. 1, but I am also there to work through ways to make learning meaningful and fun for all of us.”  

Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Putnam said, “Mrs. Austin is very deserving of this honor. Her positive attitude, unending energy and vivacious personality coupled with her educational experience and passion for students is contagious and makes us better as a district. Congratulations to Mrs. Austin on this honor, and we know she will represent us well at the regional and state principal of the year level.”

An avid Tar Heel fan and a triple graduate of Appalachian State University, Austin has been in the field of education for nearly a quarter of a century. She graduated from Appalachian State with a degree in elementary education, a master’s in middle grades education and an add-on master’s in school administration. She began teaching in Caldwell County then moved to teach at Walter Johnson Middle School the second year it was open. 

From there, Austin taught high school English, all subjects and grades in middle school and was an instructional facilitator and assistant principal in Caldwell County Schools. In 2013, Austin returned to Burke County and has enjoyed seven years as a principal at Mountain Crest/Hillcrest Elementary, East Burke Middle School and now Walter Johnson Middle School.

Austin lives in Collettsville, North Carolina with her husband, Chuck, younger daughter, Hannah, and their three dogs. Her older daughter, Keely, recently graduated from Western Carolina University.  

While a person who loves change and challenges, Austin finds that this year has been trying at times for everyone. These unprecedented changes include how students interact with school and learning. She said, “The families at Walter Johnson have been so understanding and supportive of our teachers. The students have been wonderful, and we haven’t had any issues with the different way that school looks for our students.”

She sees several positives coming out of the different school in 2020: 

  • Students will be pros at adapting to different online learning platforms.
  • Students will have learned valuable problem solving skills. Something is not “working” with their assignment; they have learned ways to persist and figure out how to fix that problem.  
  • Students are seeing different ways to inquire and ask teachers questions. Clearer ways to communicate are learned each day.

She said, “Being POY for BCPS makes me think about my favorite quote from Einstein on my office wall, ‘You never fail until you stop trying.’ And while I often fail, I look forward to my next learning opportunity and want to share that same FAIL (first attempt in learning) with the students and staff I am so blessed to have at WJMS.”

Putnam, Assistant Superintendent Dr. David Fonseca and Director of Secondary Education Felicia Simmons surprised Austin with the honor at Walter Johnson Middle School. She will be recognized at an upcoming Board of Education meeting and will advance to the regional round of principal of the year for Region 7.

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