The Principal Series featuring James Hill of Andrew J. Brown Academy
Andrew J. Brown Academy (AJB) Principal James Hill jumped over a lot of hurdles in his life to reach his dream of running an elementary school. The journey was painful at times, but the reward has been well worth it.
Hill was raised by his grandparents, who provided for him the best they could, but there wasn’t extra money left over.
“I was upset one Christmas as a child when there were no presents, and I said I hate being poor,” Hill explained. “But my grandparents were quick to correct me by explaining there is a different between being poor and being broke. They told me being broke is a state of mind, while being poor is a state of being. They said as long as we have each other we are richer than most in the world.”
Though living in poverty, the constant love and support from his grandparents empowered Hill to strive for a way to change his state of being. He also had encouragement at school where his third-grade teacher, Ms. Seplliopius, saw something special and pushed him to keep believing in his future.
“She knew when to praise me, she knew when to push me, and she made me believe in hope on my worst days,” he said. “After third grade, I really believed I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. Reflecting on it all, I wonder what choice I would have made if she had not been in my life.”
He did well in school and became the first man in his family to graduate from college with a double major in communications and ethnic studies from Minnesota State University. Hill didn’t stop there, he challenged himself to go further and obtained a master’s degree in education from the University of Minnesota.
Hill chose education as his profession because he wanted to make a difference in the lives of as many kids as possible, hoping to be a catalyst to help them unleash their potential and achieve their own dreams.
Now, as the principal of Andrew J. Brown Academy, a school with a unique Moral Focus curriculum designed to help students develop life skills, he can share his story of courage.
“Courage is my favorite moral focus virtue that we study at AJB because it’s something that comes from within and it is an attribute that teaches us to overcome obstacles,” he explained. “This is something that I have had to do my entire life. I love sharing my story of courage with others so they can find courage to conquer the roadblocks to their own success.”
As Hill knows from personal experience, it’s also important to have support along the way. He says a parent’s influence on their child in terms of success in school is immeasurable.
“Students need that support at home and that extra encouragement to set good study habits and learn the importance of personal responsibility—it’s an important stepping stone to success.”
Reflecting on his journey, Hill says there is one special moment he gets to experience every day that validates his decision to become an educator.
“My favorite moment of the day is walking the halls of AJB and seeing all of the students smiling back at me.”