The new assistant principal at Bryan Elementary School, Dr. Sakema Porterfield, at left, works with Bryan’s principal Debra Campbell recently. Porterfield replaces former assistant principal Karen White, who was recently named the new principal at Snow Rogers Elementary in Gardendale.

By Melanie Patterson

The North Jefferson News

Less than two months into her first administrative position, Dr. Sakema Porterfield has no doubt she made the right move.

“I absolutely love it here,” said Porterfield. “Everyone here is so warm and nice.”

Porterfield is the new assistant principal at Bryan Elementary School in Morris.

“I like being out and about here and seeing the different classrooms. It’s still fascinating to me,” she said. “Mrs. Campbell is so good about making sure I’m always learning something new.”

Debra Campbell is the principal at Bryan.

Porterfield became interested in administration after observing the different leadership styles of her former principals during her eight years as a classroom teacher.

“I felt that leadership in school systems affects teachers. And if it affects teachers, it affects students,” she said. “If my morale is low, if I don’t feel like I’m appreciated, if I’m super stressed-out, I can’t perform to the best of my ability. That affects my classroom.”

Porterfield is so interested in the issue of teacher morale, she wrote her dissertation about the effect that administrators have on teacher burnout.

One of Porterfield’s goals is to prevent burnout in the faculty at her school. She said one way to do that is to listen to them.

“As an administrator, you have to see what ideas your teachers have,” she said. “You should be able to empower your teachers.”

Otherwise, she said, teachers feel no ownership, loyalty or connection to their supervisors or schools.

Porterfield decided to make a career in the field of education after trying her hand at counseling.

She earned a bachelors in psychology at UAB and a masters in counseling at Alabama State University.

When working as a counselor didn’t suit Porterfield, her mother suggested that she try education. Porterfield had enjoyed her job at a preschool while earning her undergraduate degree.

“I loved teaching the preschoolers,” Porterfield said. “Just being able to watch them learn ... that really, really sparked something.”

So Porterfield went back to ASU to earn her masters in early childhood education.

She went on to earn both an Ed.S (education specialist) and Ed.D (doctor of education) at Samford University.

Porterfield credits her parents for giving her the drive to move higher in her career.

“My parents really stressed the importance of education,” she said. “I guess they knew an education could be an outlet for you.”

Porterfield, who calls herself a “product of Jefferson County,” grew up in Hueytown.

She began working at Bryan Elementary after former assistant principal Karen White was promoted to principal at Snow Rogers Elementary in Gardendale.

White, in turn, got that position after former Snow Rogers principal Dr. Robin Gillespie became the new supervisor of gifted education for the Jefferson County Board of Education.

Porterfield was a third-grade teacher at Irwin Elementary School for a year and a half before going to Bryan. She also taught reading intervention at Tarrant Middle School, and Kindergarten at C.J. Donald Elementary, Rockford Elementary and Sardis Christian School.

Her husband is Raymond Porterfield III. They live in Grayson Valley with their 2-year-old son Ryan.

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