When nine district employees were summoned for a "focus group," they had no idea it was a trick to recognize their outstanding efforts.

Midlothian ISD Superintendent Dr. Lane Ledbetter summoned the outstanding small group of teachers and faculty members March 28 to honor them as the Midlothian ISD Employees of the Year. And, one principal who was recognized has been with the district since his serving as a student teacher while wrapping up his bachelor's degree.

Brian Blackwell was the principal when Walnut Grove Middle School opened in 2005. Before that, Blackwell student-taught at Frank Seale Middle School in the 90s when Frank Seale, himself, was the principal. The school at that time was Midlothian Middle School.

“I’d subbed a lot of places and did observations, but I knew my first day at this place is way different from anything I’d seen before,” Blackwell recalled.

Over the year, he has seen the district practically double in size. Blackwell recalled in the 90s discipline was vital and the students’ expectations were already high. Then in the 21st century, he noticed the district focused more on relationships and engaging with students while they learned. And, over the past two years, the drive has been implementing technology to help kids take ownership of learning.

“I think I’ve made an impact by building relationships, by expecting excellence from the kids, the staff, myself. I think that I’ve made an impact by hiring amazing teachers,” Blackwell emphasized.

Blackwell said jobs in education do not usually receive recognition, but the award gave him a boost and re-centered himself with his goals.

“It is very humbling because there are great leaders in the district. So to be recognized is humbling and just an honor,” he added. “It reminded me why I do what I do and that’s because of the kids.”

Blackwell’s goals are focused on the students. His concentration is making sure students don’t fall through the cracks. He ensures students who are in need of a helping hand have someone from the school in their corner. The program, Though Communities in Schools, focuses on attendance, academics, and behavior. This has benefited over 50 students.

“I would have benefited tremendously from a mentor from eight grade on because I lost my dad. So, I didn’t have that positive male role model, and I know there are kids here who need encouragement,” Blackwell elaborated.

“We are constantly looking at kids who struggle and finding what we can do to help them. Another goal of mine is to grow the mentoring program,” he added.

His advice to other principals is merely don’t lose sight of the things that matter, which is instruction, kids, being assessable and visible, never stop learning, and always seek to grow.

He said with new legislation implemented every two years and having to apply new ideas while maintaining the programs that are unique to Walnut Grove Middle can be tricky.

“It’s easy to lose your focus and get overwhelmed with all the tasks you have to do. That’s probably one of my greatest professional struggles is doing the things added, plus the things that I think make the school great, to begin with,” he admitted.

But when reflecting on the growth of Walnut Grove Middle since he opened it in 2005, he’s most proud of how the students feel about the campus. He shared that graduated students will return and share their memories of the campus.

Blackwell makes an effort on a daily basis to check in with the students to see how the school is treating them. Students continuously commend their teachers.


Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450