From elementary to middle and high school, Stephen Mares has been the principal of at least seven students for 11 years.
Those students graduated Friday from Broughton High School, where Mares is principal.
Watching the students grow up has been “big fun” and the highlight of being principal, Mares said.
“It’s awesome and hard to believe they’re graduating,” Mares said. “I do consider them my kids.”
Mares was also principal at Joyner Elementary School and Daniels Middle School.
“He’s been such a great principal that they couldn’t just keep him at elementary school, they wanted him at Daniels, then they wanted him at Broughton,” student Emma Johnson said. “He leaves them better than he found them.”
As Mares transitioned from each school level, being able to maintain relationships with the students and their families helped him make his decision to change schools, he said.
“He just couldn’t let us go,” Johnson said.
Each time Cammie Dyer discovered Mares would be her principal, she was surprised, she said.
“It was pretty funny, and it was nice, though,” Dyer said. “I’m blessed to have been able to have him.”
Mares always made an effort to make Dyer feel comfortable and to know her, she said.
“It’s been really cool to know your principal on a personal level rather than a student-teacher kind of thing,” Dyer said.
In the hallway, Johnson said Mares would have real conversations with her.
“He is more than a principal since we’ve had him all those years,” Johnson said. “He makes everybody feel like they’re special, but it’s really nice to have that really personal relationship with him.”
Mares helped Wilson Jeter feel comfortable enough to talk to him about issues that he wouldn’t have discussed with another principal, Jeter said.
“I’m going to miss him next year,” Jeter said.
Mares, who has five kids, makes time to be a father to his kids and more than a principal to his students, Dyer said.
“He’s been a role model,” Dyer said. “He’s definitely someone I hold my standards up to. I aspire to be like him.”
Jeter said he can still remember speeches Mares gave during elementary school.
“I just think it’s very special that you can go from second grade onward with one person as principal,” Jeter said. “It’s been a good experience, and it’s really benefited me and the others.”