Ericka Anderson - new principal at West Newton Elementary School - stands barely taller than most of her fifth grade students but commands respect as a leader by giving praise and respect to her staff and students.
"They say education is in my blood," Anderson said. "I've never wanted to be anything else."
In Sandersville her mother was an assistant superintendent and her father worked as a school assistant principal. Anderson has already logged seven years working as a school administrator.
She started her career as a third grade teacher.
"After college, I ended up back in Sandersville with the same people that taught me," Anderson said.
When an assistant principal position opened in Sandersville, her principal encouraged her to apply even though she had no aspiration of promotion at the time.
"She saw something in me, even though I didn't see that in myself," Anderson said.
She applied and was hired for the job.
After a couple of years she moved to the Spalding County school district to work as an assistant principal at a school in Griffin.
She focused on professional development and curriculum instruction for five years in Griffin, before coming to Newton County as a head principal.
Anderson said assuming the head position of a school as well as the location of Newton County made the decision to move an easy one.
"Covington has a lot of the small town qualities," Anderson said, "but it's close to Atlanta if I'm feeling adventurous."
Because of the encouragement she received from her principal in Sandersville, Anderson said she tries to be a "cheerleader" for her staff, giving them confidence to advance either in their educational or career goals.
She also explained the goals she has for the faculty and students at West Newton Elementary.
First, she said schools need to offer an environment where students and teachers feel safe.
"Sometimes students can't learn if they don't feel safe," Anderson said.
Anderson wants to begin a new program which gives students who have good attendance records personal support and praise from herself and their teachers.
"They can't learn if they're not in the building," Anderson said.
She said the new Never Been Absent (NBA) Club will provide "intrinsic motivation." Rather than giving a student a pencil or stickers, students will receive verbal commendations from the faculty.
She hopes teacher applause as well as special lunches with teachers will promote good attendance.
The idea for the NBA Club came from examining practices and policies in other school districts.
"I'm very competitive and I look at other schools," Anderson said, "and if they are doing something that works, I look at how we can bring it to West Newton."
Another one of Anderson's primary goals is to involve not only parents in their children's educations, but also the community.
"When I was in school, the school was the center of the community," Anderson said, "and with all the subdivisions popping up around here, that's really important.
"We all have to get together to make sure our kids have a bright future."