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Steve Staples '76, M.Ed. '82

Commonwealth of Virginia Superintendent of the Year (1997)

Professor Steve StaplesSteven Staples
B.A. 1976 – History
M.Ed. 1982 – Guidance & Counseling
Executive Professor, School of Education
Superintendent, York County School Division
Virginia Superintendent of the Year (1997)

Steve Staples served for 17 years as superintendent of York County School Division, one of the highest performing school systems in the Commonwealth.  For his leadership within the division and state, Steve was named Superintendent of the Year.  When introducing him as one of the speakers at the 50th anniversary program, Dean Virginia McLaughlin said, "Our School was fortunate to have Steve teach for us as a part-time Executive Professor, and even more fortunate to have him join the faculty full-time after he returned from his superintendency.  Steve's career represents the close coupling of research and practice that is fundamental to our School."

Following is a portion of Dr. Staples speech.

It is a pleasure and an honor to join you today for this momentous event.

Knowing that I would follow many excellent speakers, I thought I'd share just three things regarding my experiences with W & M and the School of Ed.

I was born and raised in Virginia so, like most other Virginia elementary students at that time, I took the 4th grade field trip to Colonial Williamsburg. Sometime during that trip, standing on Duke of Gloucester Street, I remember our guide pointing down the street and saying "that is The College of William and Mary". In my memory I recall seeing a big building which I now know is the Wren Building. As a 4th grader, I thought the one building was the entire college, since it was about the size of my elementary school. But looking down DOG Street I decided right then that I wanted to go to The College of William and Mary. At about the same time, I decided that I wanted to be a teacher, so my career dreams were tied to William and Mary and the School of Education as far back as the 4th grade.

I was fortunate to be admitted to W & M and quickly discovered that I was in a very competitive peer group. Everyone in my classes had done well in high school and was focused and hard-working. I realized that I would need to work much harder to be successful here – I had been a "big fish in a small pond" but W & M helped me gain a work ethic that carried me through my career. I better understood that competition meant you had to be better prepared, harder working, and more creative in order to achieve success. Nothing was just given to you and you couldn't "just slide" through on this campus. I am, today, most thankful for that. It set the pattern for my own work in education.

My time here also helped me understand that William and Mary has a "brand recognition" that is important and beneficial as well. When you say "he has a Rolex watch" or "she bought a Lexus", there is an inherent expectation of quality. I think the same is true for William and Mary. I can't tell you how many times someone has looked at my resume and commented "Oh! You went to William and Mary. You must be smart." That W & M brand has opened many doors for me throughout my career.

Finally, W & M and the School of Education provided solid preparation for my work in the field. The high standards and expectations for academic performance made sure that I was prepared for the work I wanted to do. You knew that each class assignment needed to be high quality or it wouldn't pass muster. It wasn't always easy. I remember student-teaching at Bethel High School down in Hampton. School started at 7:20 so we were leaving campus at 6:30 in the morning – tired, a bit frightened, but confident that we were ready. It was just hard to leave campus while everyone else was still sleeping!

In short, W & M and the School of Education did three things for my career - provided me with two degrees that carry automatic brand recognition of quality that opens doors; forced me to become a better competitor by putting me in a very high-performing peer group; and prepared me through a rigorous program of high expectations for class performance. Those three things made a big difference in my own career.

Thanks to W & M and the School of Education for making a difference in my life and my career...and for making the dreams of a 4th grader come true.

Go Tribe!