2013: Women to Watch

Published 10:52 am Friday, February 8, 2013

By Candace Matthews

For Julie Shields, she has come full circle.

She attended public school in Hertford County as a child and now serves as the top educational administrator at one of the schools in the Hertford County Public Schools system.

Add to that fact that Shields is also a caring mother as well as the wife of a successful local businessman, and one can clearly see the impact this woman has made here locally.

She has 31 years of teaching experience under her belt and continues her involvement in the community as well.

Julie Shields

Shields became assistant principal of Bearfield Primary School in 2001 and moved up to the position of Principal in 2003.

“I have been here ever since and I love it. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t do this,” she said.

Roughly 862 elementary students attend the school. Under Shields’ leadership, Bearfield was a Reading First School for six years, during which time the school won the Reading First Exemplary School award for making steady progress in reading.

Pre-Kindergarten at Bearfield has also maintained the highest rating in licensure during Shields’ leadership.

Along with the Ahoskie Public Library, Shields created opportunities for the children to develop an interest in reading as early as Pre-K. Librarian Cindy Henderson visits the school every Tuesday to read to all six of the Bearfield Pre-K classes. Once a month the Pre-K students visit the local Ahoskie Library as well.

“We teach our children, at a young age, to go to the library and use it and get what they want to read. It is those experiences that will make them better readers,” Shields said.

Shields remembers that someone once called Bearfield a ‘Little City in Ahoskie.’ It is obvious to anyone as you enter the school that it is all for the children; Even the set-up of the building is child-centric. Low door knobs and desks make the children feel more comfortable and confident. She explains that former Bearfield Principal Michael Bracy, now the Superintendent of Jones County Public Schools, did a wonderful job making the school what it is and she has been glad to carry on his work. Her current mission is to promote the school and encourage people to send their kids to school there.

Shields is also active within her church, St. Thomas Episcopal. The church assists her in adopting 12 needy families each year to help ease the burden of holiday stress. She creates baskets for each family during holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Shields’ community involvement is just as impressive. She was previously a board member at the Gallery Theater in Ahoskie and served the maximum term of nine years on the Director’s Council at Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital.

She donates blood every 56 days like clockwork. It is a routine she has maintained since she was 17.

She doesn’t believe in being part of something unless she can give all of herself to that cause. She chose to make Bearfield and its students her top priority. She intends to spend the rest of her career at the school.

She notes that she couldn’t do any of this without the support of her family. The key to her success is in the support she has from others.

“I am only successful because I have a wonderful family, an awesome staff, and the support of others,” she closed.

Her background in education includes 20 years in the classroom, beginning in 1980 as a teacher at both Ahoskie and Murfreesboro middle schools before an 18-year teaching career (combined first and second grades class) at what was then known as Ahoskie Graded School (now Ahoskie Elementary School).

Shields is no stranger to earning accolades from her peers. She is the current HCPS Principal of the Year (for 2012-13) and was named as the district’s Teacher of the Year while at Ahoskie Graded School. She also earned the HCPS Principal of the Year honors earlier in her administrative career at Bearfield.