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The student news site of Western Albemarle High School - Crozet, VA

The Western Hemisphere

The student news site of Western Albemarle High School - Crozet, VA

The Western Hemisphere

The student news site of Western Albemarle High School - Crozet, VA

The Western Hemisphere

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Cooper Shelton, Staff Writer • February 20, 2024

Speed’s Story: The Life Experiences of Assistant Principal Yolanda Speed

Previously+an+Administrative+Intern+at+Thomas+Jefferson+Elementary+School+and+Special+Education+Teacher+at+Louisa+County+High+School%2C+Yolanda+Speed+is+ready+to+take+on+her+Assistant+Principal+role+at+WAHS.%0A%0A
Credit: Annabelle Mackey
Previously an Administrative Intern at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School and Special Education Teacher at Louisa County High School, Yolanda Speed is ready to take on her Assistant Principal role at WAHS.

If there’s anything that new Assistant Principal Yolanda Speed has learned from her life and would want to instill in WAHS students, it would be: “be yourself.” An important value of Speed, the idea of being oneself was instilled in Speed at a very early age by her grandparents.

From North Carolina, Speed was raised by her grandparents. “At a young age, when I did not talk to people outside of my house, my grandparents always made sure that they instilled love into us, as well as our spirituality of being a Christian.” Speed’s grandparents repeated the mantras that “‘you have control of your voice. You are the only one that has control of your voice. Don’t let anyone take that from you. Use your voice. Don’t use anyone else’s words. Use your words. Be respectful and express yourself. Be authentic at all times.’” 

“They didn’t use the word authentic. But what their words were to me were: ‘Be yourself and don’t ever let anyone take your words,’” Speed said.

Despite growing up in a small, rural town with a fairly homogeneous population, Speed surrounded herself with a diverse social circle, exposing her to new languages and cultures within a relatively enclosed community.

“With my friend Claire, and with my friend Viane, both of their families, both their dads did not speak English to me. They spoke their language to me. They forced me to learn their language, which was great. And in turn, we did a lot of things amongst all of our cultures,” Speed said. 

While Speed was able to be authentic through the diversity of her friend groups growing up, her inner circles of family and friends were not her only motivators for exploring individuality. Mr. Thomas, Speed’s high school English teacher, had a major influence on Speed for his willingness to be completely authentic.

“Mr. Thomas, my English teacher, was himself. He graduated from UNC Chapel Hill so he drove roughly about 45 minutes to work. He had a dance team and he was himself at that time. And he was of the LGBTQ and so that was different in the ‘90s – nothing like it is today. And I really appreciate it, him being himself. He wasn’t hiding anything. He was absolutely brilliant. He was so darn smart,” Speed said.

Speed found him inspiring.

“No one was coming out. What we have today? No one was doing that in ‘90, ‘91, or ‘92. When I was at the high school, nobody, let alone a black male. That was not the norm at that time.”

Beyond exploring individuality and maintaining authenticity, Speed’s family emphasized the importance of taking advantage of the world’s opportunities and exposing oneself to new experiences.

“[My grandparents] most definitely instilled in us a need for education at the time, as well as opportunities. And my grandfather was always quick to say ‘court the world.’”

And court the world Speed did. Following high school, Speed attended Liberty University for her bachelor’s degree and completed her masters online through Liberty while her family was stationed in Fussa-shi, Tokyo, Japan. During Speed’s time in Japan, she made an effort to immerse herself in the culture.

“I rarely drove. I rode my bike. Rain. I rode my bike. I had umbrellas talking on the cell. I did what they did,” Speed said, “I participated in their festivals such as the Kimonos festivals, such as ‘becoming an adult festival,’ aging festivals – I participated in quite a bit while there.”

Nearing the end of her time in Fussa-shi, Speed decided to make a career transition into education.

“I wanted to transition careers and so I began to pursue my education and obtain my Masters of Arts in Teaching in Special Education and began working with and volunteering at the schools, the national schools. There their days were different. When it was summer for my children, they were literally in school, and so I was able to immerse a little bit more into understanding their education at all levels,” said Speed.

Following Speed’s return to the US, Speed became a special education teacher and department chair for Louisa County High School. In 2021, Speed made yet another transition into the administrative aspect of education as an administrative intern for Thomas Jefferson Elementary School.

Now, as assistant principal at WAHS, Speed has found the adjustment to the new position generally positive.

“So far I’m thoroughly enjoying my experience. Every piece of it. Even, you know, down to discipline, meeting parents, the sports, and I’m looking forward to clubs,” Speed said.

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About the Contributor
Annabelle Mackey, Assistant Editor
Annabelle is a sophomore in her second year in Journalism, where she serves as News Editor. Regarding school activities, Annabelle is involved in Model UN, We the People, and the United Students Coalition at WAHS. She is also a member of the WAHS Marching, Symphonic, and Jazz Bands. Outside of school, she can be found listening to music, playing trumpet, or keeping up with the news.
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