Poteat retires

After spending 36 years in education here in Kernersville, Dossie Poteat is stepping in a different direction as he retires. However, he is not completely leaving the education world.
Poteat, whose initial interest going into college was to be an electrical engineer, said he changed his major after realizing he enjoyed seeing other people succeed.
“I wanted to be able to help others to be able to reach a future they desired and I didn’t see any other better way to do that than through education. I think it was something I discovered in college,” he said. “I enjoyed helping classmates be successful in their coursework. I got more fulfillment out of seeing other people succeed than working in an individual silo getting projects done (as an engineer).”
Poteat grew up in Yanceyville and graduated from North Carolina State University in 1984, where he met his wife, Gladys. Shortly after college, Poteat began his career teaching science at East Forsyth High School (EFHS) until 2001. From there, he took a position as the assistant principal at Kernersville Middle School. Poteat left there in 2005 to open East Forsyth Middle School (EFMS), where he served as the principal until his official retirement on March 31.
Poteat said it was his wife that pushed him toward administration.
“My wife told me that I needed to go back to school to get a masters, and the most convenient program I found was a masters in school administration that was offered through Appalachian State University,” he said, noting that the classes for that program were held at Winston-Salem State University. “When I finished, I was not convinced that I wanted to be an administrator, but I got an assistant principal’s job and that’s how I got into it.”
As for his career in education, Poteat said what he enjoyed most was the interactions with the students and seeing them in successful roles after graduating.
“The thing I tell people is that the purpose of education is to produce productive members of society. To me, that is my goal – to see students come through and later on when you’re out and about, you see them and are talking excitedly about their life and where they are living. That’s education,” he shared.
Similarly, as a principal, Poteat said he enjoyed not only the interactions with students but also working with adults – supporting and encouraging them.
“You’re not only working with the students to get them where they want to be in life, but you’re also working with adults to ensure what they need to do in life,” he said. “And, that may not be with you, but you support them in reaching their goals in life and support them in their family and support them if they want to go back to schools.”
One example of this was one of Poteat’s teachers at EFMS, Corie Maffett, who started out in education later in life as an assistant teacher around 2005. She then went back to school first for her undergraduate in education, then her graduate degree and again to earn her AIG licensure and has been very successful.
Poteat said he was very proud of how well the staff worked together at EFMS.
“I enjoyed that we brought together an extremely diverse staff to teach an extremely diverse student body. Most years, we had people that represented over 20 different nations in our school,” he said, as he explained that in the school’s cafeteria there are flags flying that represent students and staff from the different countries they have had at the school.
He said over the past six years, they also had students that came from 21 schools, who chose to come to EFMS.
When asked about some of the most memorable moments throughout his career as both an educator and principal, Poteat said there were so many, naming just a few. Of those, included opening a brand new school and planning the opening with other new schools opening at the time: Raegan High School and Atkins High School.
He added that as he was opening EFMS along with Stan Elrod at Raegan High School, Elrod’s advice to Poteat was, “Your job is to get the people who work with you everything they need to do their job, support them in it, and then get out of their way.”
He took Elrod’s advice and that’s what he has tried to do throughout his career as a principal.
“What we tried to do was to hire the best people for every job and put them in that position and then leave them alone. And it works,” he said. “What I’ve learned is that you can’t be the teacher in every classroom. You can’t be the support staff that does everything, but you can be there to cheer them on and make sure they are being successful.”
Another great memory Poteat recalled was the first day they opened EFMS, and a school board member came through surprised to see that the students were in class, as Poteat thought, “Where else would they be.”
“That was great,” he remarked.
A more recent memory that Poteat mentioned was the opening of the school’s Verizon Innovative Learning Lab.
“When we opened the school in 2005, I said, ‘I want this place to be a place where people can come in and to be trained and then they would be able to go out and train others,’ and I think this space would allow us to do this. I also said to our teachers, and I remind them of this each year, ‘Our students will never live in a world that we grew up in because that world is gone. They will not even live in the world that we are presently living in because we don’t know how quickly it’s transforming,’” he shared during the opening of the lab earlier this year. “Our goal as a staff is to help prepare our students for a world we don’t know how it’s going to go and we believe this new innovative lab space is going to give us that opportunity to work with our students.”
The new lab will allow students to learn for the future, visit different parts of the world in a unique way such as going on virtual tours, work and program robots, go through simulations and more.
Poteat said seeing students’ successes each year is a highlight as well.
“Each year, you remember the celebration of the eighth grade and being able to award and recognize students for their contributions throughout the years. I think for the last four years, students from East Middle have won the state writing contest sponsored by the Elks Club and we had multiple students that were district winners for the Science Fair,” he said, noting that those students then went on to the State Science Fair and placed well. They also had multiple winners for the District Spelling Bee. “You remember the accomplishments of the students and staff. That’s why you do it. That’s the only reason someone would do it.”
Some things Poteat said he is proud of include having five staff members that interned with him that are now school principals; he had numerous former interns that are assistant principals or hold other administrative roles in schools; numerous students were selected as Student of the Year for the United Way Women’s Leadership Council; he helped many corporations reach their United Way fundraising goals; the staff was trained to teach in a 21st century method; and the Multiple Abilities Program (MAP) for autistic students was very successful.
Throughout Poteat’s career, a number of people have been inspirational to his success, including Jim Wilhelm, a former principal at EFHS, who hired Poteat.
“I learned from him that everyday parents send you the very best they have,” he said. “That’s just amazing to think about.”
Another person Poteat noted was Debbie Brooks, a former assistant principal at EFHS and former principal at Kernersville Middle School, who told him, “You can’t be concerned with the skinny rabbits,” meaning, you can’t take the small issues and make them into huge mountains.
Former EFHS Principal Patricia (Trish) Gainey taught him how important it is to build relationships.
“Dr. Judy Grissom (another former principal at EFHS), I learned from her that you have to be willing to change from what you do know and to try something different,” he said.
From Dr. Angelia Fryer, the former assistant superintendent for middle schools in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, he learned that one should know the history of something before they try to change it.
Having worked for 36 years now, Poteat said it was time to retire, noting that he had an exit plan.
“Other people told me, ‘You’ll know when it’s time. But my thing was when I finished education, I wanted to do something else and so now, I am working at Agape Faith Church in Clemmons with our University Christian Education and the Connections Program,” he said, noting that he and his wife have been attending Agape Faith Church since 2000.
Poteat said he’s still teaching, just in a different way and at a different level.
Along with teaching at the college level, he said the church will be starting a K12 academy within the next two years, which he will help with.
“It’s in the planning stages now,” he said. “So, I didn’t really retire, just transitioned.”
Since his retirement, Poteat has enjoyed being able to walk a minimum of 45 minutes each day and has plans to go on an Alaskan cruise and travel to Europe with his wife once things open back up.
While he is enjoying his retirement, Poteat said he does miss EFMS.
“I miss the personal interactions with the staff, the students and the families,” he said. “I enjoyed my time in education in Kernersville.”
Poteat and Gladys have been married for 35 years and have two grown children, Joshua, 31, who lives in Charlotte, and Jodi, 26, who lives in Dallas, TX.

Previous post:

Next post: