Meet Dr. Cooper

As we enter the 2020-2021 school year, things are looking a little different. While excited for the opportunity to go to school with friends again, many seem to be equally as nervous for the year ahead. This uncertainty may not be solely fueled by the current COVID-19 pandemic, but also by our transition to new administration. I hope this article can ease a little bit of that uncertainty by helping to introduce you to our new Superintendent of Schools: Dr. Terri Cooper.

Dr. Cooper grew up in Monroe, North Carolina, with a strong family support system. Her father attended some community college, and her mother went to college after having children, graduating the same year as Dr. Cooper’s eldest sister. They read to Dr. Cooper and her siblings often and put emphasis on their dreams and goals of the future, wanting their children to achieve more economically and academically. College was never just an option to Dr. Cooper, but a natural progression in her life, as simple as going from elementary to middle school. Her driving force to become an educator was to achieve what her parents had hoped for her.

Dr. Cooper graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She then received her master’s degree in Education Administration from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and her doctorate in Educational Leadership from Wingate University. Dr. Cooper began her career as a first grade teacher in Richmond County for four years and was then a fourth grade teacher for six years in the same county. She then worked in Central Office as a Coordinator for Teachers and Teacher Recruitment where she was able to travel within the U.S. often for the recruitment process. Continuing in Central Office, she worked as Director of Employee Support Services in Union County, overseeing the district’s Substitute, Beginning Teacher, Recruitment, and Mentor Programs, and their Fair Labor Standards Act, along with other programs and activities. Dr. Cooper was principal of Sun Valley Elementary School for four years, and was then principal within the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools system at a school with a student population of 400. Most recently, Dr. Cooper assumed the role of principal at River Gate Elementary, also within the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools system, with a population of approximately 800 students.

Dr. Cooper loves to travel. She considers herself adventurous, which is one of the reasons she wasn’t concerned about her move to Maine, even during the pandemic. Before her move, she and her family were tested and took all necessary precautions. She has found Maine to feel safer than North Carolina during the pandemic, as the majority of people here wear masks and social-distance. She was encouraged to move here because of how vital travelling and experience are to our view on the world: “I don’t think we know how big the world truly is until we get out into it.” Furthermore, Dr. Cooper believes travel and new experiences are important steps in bridging divides between people, whether it be racial gaps or otherwise: “We don’t know how people truly act or think until we’re amongst them, and if we learn and commit to those different than us, we can work to form stronger connections and communities.”

Behind the scenes, Dr. Cooper is an avid coffee fan, and loves for students to stop by and talk over a cup. Dr. Cooper was an incredibly kind and interesting person to have the opportunity to interview. I encourage all RSU 21 students to say hello to her as my experience meeting her was insightful and extremely valuable. I asked Dr. Cooper, as our new superintendent, to give a message to the students of RSU 21. As with the rest of our conversation, her answer was inspirational. “Despite all the challenges we’re facing with COVID-19, despite the interruption to our normal routine, the students of RSU 21 are going to be resilient. Out of this challenge and adversity will come something great. I believe that if we look at things positively, there’s always an outcome we didn’t anticipate that may be for the greater good. So I say to the students of RSU 21: Be resilient, be strong, and look for the good out of every challenge that comes your way.”