Ernest Saxton III, Highland Creek Elementary School

  • Ernest Saxton III, principal at Highland Creek Elementary School, is at home in the classroom. On a recent Monday morning, he joined fourth graders exploring electric charges by rubbing a balloon on a blanket and watching one charged balloon repel another.  It was evident he would have loved to stay in the science classroom for hours.

    Teaching was not Saxton’s first career. He first worked in customer service with a cable TV company for 11 years and learned much about serving and communicating with customers. He knew he had found his purpose when he began teaching..  He remembers being inspired to go beyond teaching and pursue an administrative track when Jeanne Vissa, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, encouraged him when he was a teacher in Philadelphia.

    Saxton didn’t want to lose his influence on students as a teacher. “When I thought about it, I realized that as a principal, I could influence more students and teachers, multiply the influence, and have a bigger impact,” he said.

    Along the way, Saxton had the opportunity to work with Diane Burnham when she was principal at Elizabeth Lane Elementary School.  “She was the most skillful principal I’ve ever known,” said Saxton. “She was the ultimate mentor; she modeled good practices and good decision-making. One thing I took away was the idea of not rushing to judgment. I will wait for the information I need to make a good decision.”  Burnham has since retired from CMS.

    Burnham remembers interviewing Saxton for the assistant principal position at Elizabeth Lane Elementary School in 2007. “The first thing I noticed was Ernie’s big smile.  His disposition matched his smile. He was a classroom teacher, an experienced father of young children, willing to listen and anxious to learn,” she said. “Ernie is so deserving of this award. He takes a special interest in every child.  He is eager to communicate with parents, work with the PTA, and coordinate efforts of the school community to provide a quality learning environment.”

    Saxton remembers a high point early in his teaching career at CMS when teaching fifth grade at Morehead Elementary. The entire class passed the EOG test. “I remember how important it was and how much it meant to the fifth graders,” he said. “It felt so good to be able to say I helped. That’s the feeling I’m after every day.” 

    What Saxton loves most about being a principal is the opportunity to contribute – to the students, families, colleagues and community. “I love pouring myself into helping the community, big people and little people,” he said. 

    Highland Creek Elementary’s motto is “Highland Creek Cares.” Saxton likes it because it elicits an automatic understanding that, indeed, Highland Creek cares.  It is also an acronym: Character, Academic Rigor, Embracing Students.

    To succeed as a principal, Saxton says one, "Must, must, must - must have an unconditional perspective.” “A perspective that is open and receptive. At Highland Creek, we believe in one thing: that we are all human beings on the planet Earth, trying to navigate and figure it out to the best of our ability. It’s important to be nonjudgmental.”  

    “One thing I love the most, is the opportunity to contribute and help others. I feel like that’s why we’re here. Every person has a debt to society to make the world better.”