My name is Leslie Russell. I want to take a moment to introduce myself. 

I'm in my third year as principal at Decatur High School. I've spent 24 years in education. My resume includes serving as principal at Oneonta Middle School and Oneonta Elementary School. I've worked as an elementary school teacher in the Oneonta and St. Clair County school systems. I hold a master's degree in educational leadership from the University of Alabama and a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Auburn University.

I'm looking forward to a successful school year and meeting all of our students.

What do you love about your job? 

I love being around the kids. I remember my first graduation ceremony at DHS; as I looked across the stage, I got very emotional that night. Several students that either my team or I had talked into staying in school because they wanted to drop out. Those students stuck it out that year and ended up walking across that stage and receiving their diplomas.

I stand at the front door every morning at DHS and greet the kids. When you are there each morning, you can read a child very well. I feel like by doing that; I get to know my kids on a personal level. It's a good feeling knowing you are making a difference, talking to a child about a life they've never experienced while trying to provide them the opportunities to help them see there are avenues and opportunities for success.

What personality traits do you contribute to your success?

Determination, never giving up, and the ability to problem solve. No matter where you are or what you are doing, there's always a way to do it better or grow. Another important trait is compassion for people. I try to sit down and listen to what is going on and what troubles they are having. Sometimes it's troubling, and I can't relate. If that's the case, I try to be resourceful and find somebody that can help them with the issues they are struggling.

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

Most people don't know, unless you are from my home town, that I was a decent basketball player. We won a state championship when I was in college. I played for Northwest-Shoals Community College. I also set a 3-point record in high school for the most 3 points made in a state final. 

What best advice motivated you to become an educator/principal?

Mr. Bender was the high school principal at Oneonta. He always told me administration is the most challenging job ever. You'll also find that it can be lonely at the top because you have to make difficult decisions. You have to make decisions that are best for kids. I think that's the big thing. I never want to be the principal that makes decisions based on what is easy for adults. I want to make sure when kids leave me, they have a bright future and that I've given them everything I can to help them succeed. 

What is one character trait you hope to instill in your students, and why? Never stop learning. 

Never quit. Life is hard. We try to teach grit to our kids where they know they can get through it when times get hard. I want the kids to understand it will get better, don't give up. Anybody who has determination and grit will be successful. 

What career would you have pursued if you hadn't entered education?

I wanted to be a lawyer and work in New York. My mother always told me that I argued my points very well.