HIGH POINT, N.C., Dec. 30, 2015 – High Point University doctoral student Stephanie Lowe Austin gave the keynote speech at the annual Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) awards ceremony on Nov. 17 at Koury Convention Center in Greensboro. More than 600 educators from across the state gathered at the event to celebrate schools’ efforts in improving the social and academic success of their students.
In her speech, titled “Our Kids, Our Hope, Our Future,” Austin, a student in the HPU School of Education’s Educational Leadership program, focused on the importance of building relationships in schools in order for students to succeed. She based much of the presentation on her experience helping students through challenges they are facing outside of school.
“Kids need to know we care and that they matter above all else. Our relationship with them can give them hope, safety and help them believe in themselves,” Austin says. “Educational leaders also must develop relationships with their colleagues. In examining the characteristics of struggling schools that have made significant gains, researchers have verified what most educators already know to be true – the quality of the relationships within a school community makes a difference.”
Austin, an exceptional children’s program specialist for Asheboro City Schools who is responsible for the district’s PBIS program, was selected to speak based on her demonstrated leadership in improving school climate and student success. She most recently was a school psychologist and PBIS coach for Guilford County Schools and previously worked for 12 years in Rockingham County Schools, where she was the lead school psychologist and coordinator of several programs. In 2014, she was named North Carolina School Psychologist of the Year.
“We are so proud of her,” says Barbara Mallory, associate professor of education at HPU. “It is quite an honor and privilege to be asked to deliver the keynote for this group of professionals. Stephanie is a change leader – changing the world of many school professionals.”
Austin entered HPU’s doctoral program this fall, and is already seeing the value in her coursework.
“I can’t be more thankful for my professors at HPU for supporting and encouraging me. I am truly blessed to learn from outstanding faculty members who help us grow as leaders,” Austin says. “The doctoral program is helping me to develop my leadership identity. The experiences, courses, discussions, assignments and strategic planning projects are