Principal Meets Student She Once Expelled in Elevator, Now She Disciplines Differently (Watch)

Nancy Hanks, who now serves as chief of elementary schools in Madison, Wis. speaks at Teach for America conference.
Nancy Hanks, who now serves as chief of elementary schools in Madison, Wis. speaks at Teach for America conference.

*If you’re a teacher who has ever taught K-12, do you ever think back and wonder what happened to some of those kids?

Little Johnny, who worked your nerves because he always threw those doggone paper airplanes when he thought you weren’t looking.

Classroom disruptive kids

Nikki, who never seemed to be in a good mood.

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And David.

Yeah. That David. The boy you always ended up sending to the principals office.

If you’re feeling bad as the teacher, you can imagine how that principal must be feeling. She or he is the one who really had to do the disciplining. He is the one that had to make the tough choices.

She is the one who had to live with those choices, even years later, after she knew better. Thought differently. Had that “come to Jesus moment” that made her see things in a different light.

That’s what happened to Nancy Hanks, who was riding the elevator one day when she looked up from her cell phone just as a former student she had expelled when she was principal at one of Chicago’s toughest schools walked in.

Gulp. 

She knew him instantly. And a swarm of guilt feelings consumed her as questions filled her head wondering how he had turned out.

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Had he turned criminal? Had he been incarcerated? Was he still mad at her?

Why had she kicked him out of school? She could have chosen a different path, and a more courageous one, she said, as she shared the details of the encounter in a speech last month in Washington at the 25th anniversary summit for Teach for America, where she is an alum.

But game face in tact, she simply smiled at the student and said, “Hi sweetie.”

Watch the video below and hear how she tells what happened — both after she left her post as principal at that school, and what happened to this kid she met once more in the elevator.

Sniff. Sniff.

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