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Associate Principal Garrison Brings Experience, Enthusiasm to Position

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Willie Garrison talking with students during lunch.

Willie Garrison talking with students during lunch.

Annika Noorlander

Annika Noorlander

Willie Garrison talking with students during lunch.

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“We’re better together than we are apart” a key component to keep in mind when operating at a school, new associate principal, Willie E. Garrison II says. This past January, Wauwatosa West High School welcomed Willie Garrison into the building when Associate Principal Clint Grochowski was moved to fill in a vacant position at Whitman Middle School.

Educational Background

Willie Garrison believes his education career began at home,“I like to say I started my education with my mom first, she was pretty much my first teacher,” says Garrison.  Born in Florida and moved to Oklahoma for the majority of his educational career, Garrison has been to numerous institutions on his educational track. He later finished high school in Mississippi when he moved there during his senior year. After high school he attended Oral Roberts University where he earned his bachelor’s degree. He then decided to get his master’s degree from National Louis University. From the start, he knew he wanted to pursue a career in education because he knew he wanted to work with students and teachers but he was not exactly sure what, specifically, he wanted to do. He originally began a major in law to pursue a career in juvenile justice or social work. When asked about how he came to the conclusion of teaching he said, “I love school, I love teaching, I love kids, I love being an administrator, I mean I like the whole atmosphere of school in general.” This is what caused him decide to pursue teaching as a career. Going even further into his mastery in education, he recently completed his superintendent’s license and is currently on track to complete his doctoral degree, both from Concordia University.

Early Career path

After college, Garrison was asked to come to Marquette University to work for the Upword Bound program (part of the Equal Opportunities Program). While working with the program he met his future wife, which encouraged him to stay in Wisconsin. Garrison says, “I wasn’t going back to Mississippi! She was a year ahead of me and life started to happen and I realized I couldn’t have her be with someone else.”

From there, Garrison had to start looking for careers within the Milwaukee area. He started in the Milwaukee Public School system (MPS), with his first teaching job at Malcolm X academy as an economics teacher. He moved on to work in several other MPS schools. When he started teaching at Hamilton high school, he started to follow an administrative route and finished his master’s degree, becoming an administrator with MPS until 2009.

Wauwatosa School District

His next journey began in 2014 when he came to the Wauwatosa School District as an administrator at Wauwatosa East high school and was able to embody all the characteristics of an administrator he holds as important. “Mr. Garrison was a great addition to East High School. He was able to work with students and staff to resolve challenges and provide the best learning opportunity for students. He is passionate and driven to serve all students and is an especially strong advocate for students that have been marginalized in our schools. He is a man of great faith and strives to be the same person Saturday night as he is on Sunday morning,” states Wauwatosa East High School Principal, Nick Hughes.

After a year there, he applied and received the job of supervisor of equity and student services at the Central office in which many have seen him flourish in, “Mr. Willie Garrison is a man of integrity.  He pursues his goals with the utmost focus and persistence. Since he started working for the Wauwatosa School District I have seen incredible movement in the realm of equity for all students. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to know him,” says parent, Craig Brittingham. However, as transitioning to a more office job rather than being in a school was a change of pace for Garrison he reports that it was difficult to adjust, “I left the building in a good place and so naturally the first year was a little hard because most people see me as a school dude just based on how I interact with people but I don’t want to be seen as a school dude, I want to be seen as a relationship guy.” Garrison took this as an opportunity to maintain relationships within schools. He was able to be in the building frequently doing various things like working with adults or students in buildings, doing different types of developments, etc. Keeping up with relationships he had form is very important to Garrison. He looks at building relationships as a skill set and believes it is very important within any job. “Over, the years, I’ve learned that certain things kind of work in starting and establishing relationships so I’m big on relationships…that’s like my thing so if people know me they know I’m big on establishing relationships.” Reports Garrison. Many other cohorts recognize this in him as well, “Mr. Garrison understands the importance of developing strong relationships with all members of the school community. He is extremely student centered and always considers “what is best for students” when making decisions,” says Wauwatosa School District director of student services, Therese Kwiatokowski. You may have noticed this at west when Garrison is actively around the halls talking to different people within the building, establishing relationships.  

Future

As far as Willie Garrison’s future goes, he does not know exactly what the future may hold, but he always looks to the future as a way to get better, “I learned that you carry yourself as what you aspire to be. I always aspired to be an administrator, principal, district administrator, superintendent, so I always carried myself with those goals,” Garrison says. He recently started working on getting his superintendent’s license because he did not want being a superintendent to not be a possible option for him, he doesn’t want any opportunities to be out of the question. He says, “one day I would love to be a superintendent but if that doesn’t open up, I’m still working with students…and I think that’s the bigger calling.”

Experience with Wauwatosa West

Overall, Garrison thinks West was a great fit for him. He came to Wauwatosa West eager to be immersed in another school atmosphere, when asked about something he particularly likes about West he said, “I love diversity, I love a diverse school and to me, West has that type of diversity that makes a school kind of grow.” He also is very fond of the structures here, at Tosa West, he believes when things are in place and there is not a lot of guessing that has to go on, it allows for the best atmosphere in a school. He believes these are the things that make West, West. As far as what he sees needs improving, he cannot pinpoint anything in particular, particularly because he has not been here long enough and because, “in education, we are always improving and we can always improve. It is not how we can get better at a certain thing, it’s all about continuous improvement.” He demonstrated this for us by drawing an hourglass on his whiteboard, he explained that it keeps going, as soon as you complete something, you turn it over and it begins again, proving that we are constantly striving to improve.

What’s Next?

As of right now, he will be finishing the school year at Tosa West. As an administrator, he is aware that things change and one has to be flexible to changes. He views his top priority as serving parents, students, and teachers and he concludes that that is what is important right now. Mr. Garrison is seen as an excellent addition to the Wauwatosa School District community, Superintendent, Dr. Phil Ertl says, “Mr. Garrison is the consummate team player and always operates at the highest level of professionalism. His only goal is to make sure all students get equal opportunities to be successful and enjoy the whole school experience.”

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