Huffaker steps in as Wearwood principal
Four Sevier County schools will kick off the new academic year with new principals. One is Dustin Huffaker, who will replace Bruce Wilson as principal at Wearwood Elementary.
Huffaker's primary goal for the coming year is a simple yet important one. He wants to to increase the amount of hands-on activities for children, creating an environment that is enjoyable and stimulates learning.
"We have a big picnic pavilion out here that I'd like to put to use, and a quarter of a mile nature trail," he said. "I'd like to see a lot of hands on activities going on that kids enjoy being a part of. I want them to look forward to coming to school every day."
Huffaker grew up in Pigeon Forge and attended that city's schools, then graduated from Sevier County High School in 2001. He earned his bachelor's degree in physical education at the University of the Cumberlands, and he obtained a master's degree in education and an education specialist degree from Lincoln Memorial. He is currently enrolled in a doctoral program at University of the Cumberlands.
Prior to becoming an administrator, he taught in several Sevier County schools, most recently New Center. There he taught and coached football and track before serving as assistant principal for the past two years.
The most rewarding part of working in education, Huffaker said, is realizing the effect teaching can have on a child's life.
"A lot of times you find out kids don't come from the greatest situation, but you can have a much greater impact on them that you ever thought you could," he said. "As an educator, you spend seven and a half or eight hours with students every day. You see them more than their parents do."
The most challenging aspect of serving as an administrator is trying to motivate others at a time when educators have more and more responsibilities, Huffaker said.
"We always have to remember that it's about the students," he added. "What's good for the students will always be best for the school."
Another challenge educators face is adapting to the new common core, a set of standards adopted by the state of Tennessee, 45 other states and the District of Columbia. They will be implemented in the coming year.
Teachers at Wearwood and across the district and state are currently attending training for the new standards. Huffaker believes that common core, although demanding for teachers and students alike, is a step in the right direction.
"Looking at it from the viewpoint of a parent, I think my son will be better prepared for college than I was," he said.
Huffaker lives in Pigeon Forge with his wife, Kacie, who is a civil engineer. They have three children: 5-year old-Braden, and twins Beau and Blakely, who are six months old.
Huffaker tells parents that for a successful school year, they should be supportive of their children and keep in mind that teachers have good intentions with regard to students.
"I'm just looking forward to a new school year," he said. "It's started off great, and I hope it will continue to be great."