Meet Andrew Charland

Andrew Charland

A.B. Combs Leadership Elementary School

On teaching fifth-graders: My students are all natural leaders in various ways. My job is to help them find and embrace those qualities within themselves.

They should leave my classroom with a greater appreciation for the impact they can have on others in their lives. If we are able to achieve that goal, the students will naturally find themselves thriving as leaders in society.

Inspiration: ​The children fuel my passion.

I often feel almost a sense of guilt that I get to do for a living what I would probably do anyway, even if teaching didn’t exist as a profession. Where else can I go to work and read a book aloud where every character gets their own voice and then go outside and play kickball or basketball?  It is so easy to enjoy life through the lens of a child because children are passionate about everything. I thrive on sharing those life experiences with them.

Professional highlight: The steadfastness of relationships is my biggest accomplishment. ​I have spent nearly 20 years in elementary education in two states. The entirety of that career has been at two schools and with only two principals — one for the first five years that I taught in North Branch, Mich., and 15 now here in Raleigh at AB Combs Elementary.

Biggest risk: Moving from my home state of Michigan, where I was already doing what I loved in a great setting, in order to move to North Carolina.

I didn’t know what it would be like to teach at a school as well-known and regarded nationally as Combs Elementary. I was blown away at the idea that I might teach at a school I had seen on videos and mentioned in books. As exciting as the idea was, I was moving away from everything and everyone I knew.

Raleigh is so different from metro Detroit, and my parents still live on the street where I grew up with mostly all of the same neighbors and my childhood friends. I didn’t have any of that support structure here, but I knew it was a place that I wanted to be. That made the leap of faith worthwhile.

Core values: The biggest life lessons are learned outside of a textbook. Children learn far more that will carry them through life by simply engaging with one another, caring for one another, and coping with one another.

I hold on to people dearly in life, and am thrilled to stay a part of my students’ lives long after they leave my classroom. If I can help them grow as people, then I feel that is as true to my core values as any profession ever could be.

On success: Success is self-defined. I know some people who outwardly have achieved every measure of success imposed by society but who are less than happy with themselves. I also know others whom society might brand as less than successful but who are self-assured and satisfied with their path.

I would rather my students choose the life that they want to live and be confident in their accomplishments no matter how others might view them. A truly successful person does not need or crave the praise of others.

Fun fact: Since moving to North Carolina, I have adopted UNC as my favorite college sports team. We have season tickets at Carolina, and I’m frequently on campus for games in Chapel Hill decked out head-to-toe in Carolina Blue. That being said, I will always be a Michigan Wolverine at heart.

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