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Local principal honored in Washington D.C. as National Distinguished Principal
Riverview's Julia Mashburn one of three elementary principals from Georgia recognized
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Riverview Elementary School Principal Julia Mashburn talks about her experience at the 2018 National Distinguished Principal event in October in Washington D.C. during the Nov. 13 board of education meeting. - photo by Jessica Taylor
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Riverview Elementary School Principal Julia Mashburn is congratulated for being named a National Distinguished Principal by Chief Operations Officer Rick Brown at the Dawson County Board of Education meeting Nov. 13. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Riverview Elementary School Principal Julia Mashburn was formally recognized as the 2018 Georgia Nationally Distinguished Principal at the Nov. 13 board of education meeting  in celebration of her recent trip to the national awards conference in Washington D.C. last month.

Mashburn, who has served as the principal of Riverview since its inception, was one of three elementary school principals in the state to be recognized with the national title this year. She is one of only 82 principals in Georgia to have received the award since the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) began in 1984.

“Talk about a Cinderella story. I mean if you feel like you could just be that person that goes from a pumpkin to a coach, Dawson County is a place where it can happen,” Mashburn said. “I’m so proud to represent Dawson County, and especially Riverview Elementary, as Georgia’s 2018 Nationally Distinguished Principal.”

At last week’s meeting, Mashburn shared excerpts from the speech she delivered at the 2018 National Distinguished Principal event held in Washington D.C. in October.

“As a child I always dreamed of being a teacher,” Mashburn said. “I grew up in metro Atlanta. I played school all the time and I remember begging my mom for cheap textbooks at the local discount store so I could really be the teacher.”

Because of influential educators in her life who helped her excel in her studies, Mashburn was able to pursue a degree at a community college.

“My parents, they loved me with all their heart and with all they had and I cherish every thought of them, especially now that they’re gone. But college? Imagine that for a student whose family dream was to have the first high school graduate,” Mashburn said.

She pursued her passion for education until her neighbor, a retired educator, made her second guess herself. 

Her neighbor was bitter and felt like her life as an educator had been a waste, Mashburn said. 

Not wanting to end up like her neighbor, Mashburn changed majors, eventually dropped out of college, got married and raised a family.

When Mashburn moved to Dawson County 38 years ago and her children began attending school, she wanted to get back into education.

It began with substitute teaching at Dawson County Primary School then going back to college and landing a job teaching kindergarten there.

Under her leadership, Riverview has fostered a culture for its large populations of economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities that impacts student and community success.

The school has also developed the SPARK program, which promotes positive school culture, data teams that empower teachers to improve teaching and the PALS Mentoring Program, which pairs students with school staff to support encouragement and success for RvES students.

In 2016, Riverview received the Gold Award from the Georgia Governor’s Office of Student Achievement for “Greatest Gains,” and last year RvES was one of 13 schools to receive the GOSA Platinum Award for “Greatest Gains.”

These accomplishments have earned RvES the status of Georgia Highest Performing Title 1 Reward School in the top 5 percent of the state.

“It was you in this county that saw something in me that I didn’t know I had, or I had not yet realized. I’m so blessed and thankful for the growth and leadership opportunities that this school system has afforded me these 28 years and I know I would not be here today without it,” Mashburn said. “I share this award with all of you. Because of you I didn’t end up like my neighbor. I’ll always advocate for being in this profession. It matters to our children. It matters to our, now especially to me, my grandchildren – all of our grandchildren. It matters to your children, to our parents. It matters to our communities.”

The Nationally Distinguished Principal award program was founded 34 years ago as a way to recognize elementary and middle school principals who set high standards for instruction, student achievement and character of the students, families and the staff of their learning community.

Honorees are chosen by nominations from their state peers. A final selection is made by the NAESP state affiliates.

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Dawson County Schools Superintendent Damon Gibbs and Riverview Elementary School Principal Julia Mashburn pose for a photo with her award for being named a 2018 National Distinguished Principal by the Georgia Association of Elementary School Principals. - photo by Jessica Taylor