Assistant principals highlighted during appreciation week


The week of April 10-14 is Assistant Principal Appreciation Week, which highlights important heroes within the education system. With five assistant principals here at our home of Fuquay-Varina High School, they hold many responsibilities to keep our students safe, support our teachers, and help the school become a better place. 

The assistant principals working to improve our school include Kristi Leak, Kenneth Collishaw, Eric Thomas, Benjamin Olin, and Tara Aman. Although they hold the same job on paper, each of them has different roles catered to their strengths to create a strong assistant principal team. 

Kenneth Collishaw, a newer member of the team, holds lots of responsibilities, which include media, CTE, PE, athletics, and student discipline Cu-Hi as a few to name. He’s able to use his teaching experiences and background in education to help teachers and students in ways he didn’t know were possible. 

“I wanted to be at the table making those decisions to help the school as much as I possibly can outside of the classroom. Teachers need good leaders and students need good teachers, and we need people looking out for them,” said Collishaw.

Collishaw had a different experience becoming an assistant principal. He completed schooling for the job during the COVID-19 pandemic, which limited his experiences in the beginning of his career as an administrator. 

“I decided to go into administration, so I did an add-on license at UNC Greensboro virtually during COVID-19. So my internship was during COVID-19. Any experience from leading to discipline, or the day to day of being an assistant principal, I couldn’t get during the pandemic,” said Collishaw.

These circumstances never held him back from helping our school, and he stays optimistic and cheerful every day to interact with students and teachers. Collishaw is able to learn from his team members’ strengths and grow as an individual on a daily basis. 

“My skills are being adaptable and dynamic and able to learn from my mistakes, learn from my successors, and be quick on my feet. I love being able to make decisions to shape our school and have the ability to put people first in this building. All my favorite parts of my job include helping people, such as going into classrooms, going into the community to get things donated for our teachers, and saying good morning to all the kids,” said Collishaw.

Eric Thomas has been an administrator for seven years and has a background in education with over a decade of teaching experience under his belt. With his family being in education, he was able to see and understand the career he would follow. 

“Both of my parents were in education. They were both teachers, and my dad went into administration. I taught for 13 years in Ohio, and it was around year 10 that I decided to move out of my career and do something different. I got my principal license, became an assistant principal in Ohio, and then moved down to North Carolina. Once it was time for me to join admin, I loved it,” said Thomas. 

With the change in career paths from teacher to assistant principal, Thomas was able to see schools and students in different ways than he previously did, and this helped him to change as an educator at Fuquay-Varina High School. 

“You see the bigger picture of family dynamics in relation to the school. In the classroom, you’re focused on individual relationships with students and see families in the community and how the family lifestyle affects us here at school. It opened my eyes to family struggles, and I try to listen to people and their struggles and be empathetic,” said Thomas. 

“The best part of my job is going through the classrooms, talking with students in the hallways, and trying to make them smile. When working in discipline, I don’t like to hand out a consequence, I want to understand why, not just dismiss a kid. My goal is to understand what caused these issues, try to help them get through these issues, and help them get back on track,” said Thomas.

Benjamin Olin has had a very unique background when it comes to finding his passion. As a former member of the military, Olin was able to find the foundation and drive to be disciplined, and to help others in many different ways.

“After 3 years of active duty and getting some leadership experience, I started college and did the National Guard while in school.  Part of the time I did tours in NYC after 9/11 and was in Iraq. Those experiences also shaped how I eventually wanted to become a leader,” said Olin.

After the military, Olin was able to become a teacher and fulfill his passion to be a leader. Through the opportunities he was able to have, Olin was able to have those important roles and find his love for being an assistant principal. 

“While in college, I fell in love with sculpture and ceramics and ended up becoming an art teacher.  I really liked creative problem-solving, and as a teacher found that I was again drawn to leadership roles, and became the Art Department Chair in my third year as a teacher.  I started my master’s program for administration, which eventually led to getting my first assistant principal job at Panther Creek.  Then, after six years of driving from near Fuquay to there, the position opened here, and I applied,” said Olin. 

Throughout this opportunity, Olin is able to guide young adults into adulthood and help them grow into the individuals they are meant to be. With the work that young students can have, he gives them extra help to help the process of coming into high school easier.

“To me, helping students learn to transition from being kids coming from 8th grade to being adults when they graduate.  That maturity doesn’t come at the same time or in the same way for students, and social media has made it even more challenging.  That’s also the part that was hard to learn to handle on a regular basis,” said Olin. 

Although Assistant Principal Appreciation Week has just ended, we must understand the hard work and dedication that each of them has in our school. They wake up every day looking to make our school, students, and teachers more comforting and safe. This task isn’t easy to have on a person’s plate, so be sure to thank them for the work they do to make our school a better place.