For over 10 years, Eastside Elementary has flourished under the leadership of principle Cindy Hamil, whose positive attitude and proactive mindset keeps Eastside on their A-game. By embracing new technology and pushing for excellence in every area of education, Hamil is working to better prepare her students, and teachers, for the ever-changing world.
Hamil grew up attending Clinton public schools, and she and her three children all graduated from Clinton High School.
“I’ve been an Arrow all my life,” she says. “I bleed red and black.”
Hamil earned her degree in elementary education in 1991 and her masters in educational leadership and supervision in 1998 from Mississippi College. She taught at Jackson Public Schools for 3 years before helping start the Clinton Alternative Program in 1993, where she developed the elementary component and taught K-6. In 1997, she moved to Eastside, where she taught 5th grade and later served 4 years as assistant principle.
Since taking the role of head principle in 2005, Hamil has become known for her passion for incorporating modern technology in the classroom.
“I’ve always been interested in technology,” she says. “My dad built my first computer, and I found it fascinating.”
When Hamil was working for the Clinton Public School District as a test coordinator, one of her jobs was Web Master. She actually built CPS’s first webpage using html code and trained other teachers on how to make webpages for their individual schools. As she moved into more administrative roles, Hamil carried those skills with her.
“I knew that I wanted Eastside to be on the forefront of technology,” she says.
Hamil worked with the PTO to buy SMART Boards for almost every classroom at Eastside. She also introduced an interactive learning system called Nearpod, as well as virtual reality field trips. Tools like these allow for a more engaging and unique learning experience for students. Hamil says that having every teacher at Eastside become a Nearpod and Apple-certified educator has made the transition to a One-to-One school (where every student has an Apple device to use in the classroom) an easy one.
Hamil motivates teachers to incorporate new technology by modeling it during faculty meetings. “My goal is to keep teachers on top of the technology trends and continue to get better at using those tools in the classroom,” she says.
In addition, Hamil encourages the Eastside team to be strong supporters of physical fitness. From Zumba-thons to walk-to-school days, she finds ways to promote healthy choices. Eastside earned the title of NFL Play 360 Super School because of their enthusiasm about physical education and received a $10,000 grant from the NFL to better their playground.
Another area that Hamil focuses on is service. Eastside participates in projects such as collecting socks for the homeless and each year, raises over $8,000 for the American Heart Association.
“Any activity that gets students caring about others is important,” Hamil says.
Some of the highlights from Hamil’s time at Eastside include building a new school, having Rachel Ray and First Lady Michelle Obama visit for a healthy school segment, and, of course, earning the title of an A-rated school.
“We try very hard academically to maintain an A-rating,” says Hamil. “When we get our scores each year, it feels like a success.”
Hamil strives to create a positive learning environment, and she says that starts with maintaining a fun atmosphere for the teachers and meeting their needs. “I tell them to pretend like we’re at Disney World,” she says. “I want them to express joy in their jobs because it trickles down to the children.”
She adds that everything she does is based on relationships, and she does her best to preserve an ere of trust with her coworkers. “We are a family,” she says.
“She has an open door policy,” says Eastside Assistant Principle Brittany Ricker. “And we always feel comfortable going into her office to talk about literally anything, or, in my case, just sit there and cry after a bad day. She is accepting and loves her staff fiercely. Ms. Hamil consistently invests herself into the lives of those around her to make Eastside and Clinton Public Schools excellent. I consider it an honor to work with Ms. Hamil each day, but also to call her a friend.”
“Ms. Hamil has given me room to grow as a teacher, along with guidance as I have needed it,” adds Jana Chao, on of Eastside’s computer science teachers. “She allows me to see the needs of my students and meet those needs in the ways I see fit as a professional. She always encourages new ideas, only questioning whether or not those ideas will grow students.”
“The ere of excellence is empowering,” says Hamil. “I love getting up and going to work every single morning. There’s no where else I’d rather be.”
Hamil has three children and three grandchildren. When she’s not at school or with her family, she loves to garden.