Gaston County assistant principal gets $25,000 worth of respect from Milken Award

Meghan LeFevers, assistant principal at Bessemer City High in Gaston County, was presented with a $25,000 Milken Educator Award on Monday.
Meghan LeFevers, assistant principal at Bessemer City High in Gaston County, was presented with a $25,000 Milken Educator Award on Monday. Milken Family Foundation

Assistant principals tend to do their work behind the scenes. In the case of Bessemer City High’s Meghan LeFevers, that work has included helping students with autism, hearing loss and other challenges.

On Monday morning the spotlight turned to LeFevers. She walked into what she thought would be a speech by state Superintendent Mark Johnson to discover she had been awarded a Milken Educator Award, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 grant.

“Holy cow – I had no idea,” LeFevers said afterward. She said she thought Johnson might be coming to congratulate the school on its rising graduation rate.

Businessman and philanthropist Lowell Milken created the awards to celebrate outstanding early- to mid-career educators and inspire more young people to join the profession. LeFevers is the only North Carolinian among this year’s 44 recipients.

Described as a “data-driven humanitarian,” LeFevers works at a high-poverty high school in Gaston County, about 25 miles west of Charlotte. A former math teacher, she began at Bessemer City High School in 2013 as an N.C. Principal Fellows intern and has been an assistant principal since 2014.

She describes herself as a product of public education: Her mother retired from North Gaston High, LeFevers graduated from Cherryville High in 2003, and she received state-funded fellowships to get a bachelor’s degree from Appalachian State University and a master’s in school administration from UNC Charlotte.

LeFevers traces her passion for helping people with special needs to her grandfather, who took her along when he drove Meals on Wheels routes and visited the Shriners Hospital. Later she would meet students with autism through her teaching and volunteer work, and loves the chance to teach students whom “people sometimes give up on.”

Principal Judy Moore says LeFevers’ passion and compassion shine through: “I don’t care what background you come from, you know if somebody cares about you.”

LeFevers has helped students and faculty use data to boost academic performance, and the school’s proficiency on Math I exams has risen from 5 percent to 31 percent. She has also helped the school create a master schedule to pair students with the best teachers for their learning styles. And she works as Bessemer City High’s public relations liaison, sharing student accomplishments and other points of pride on social media. Last month the N.C. Association of Principals and Assistant Principals named LeFevers its 2018 Secondary Assistant Principal of the Year.

The benefits of the award go beyond the big check and a day of celebration. Recipients become part of a network of almost 2,700 award winners who have been recognized in the program’s 30 years, including 50 from North Carolina. The 2017-18 recipients will attend a spring forum in Washington, D.C.

LeFevers says she hopes to become a principal and earn a doctorate in the future. As for how she’ll spend the $25,000, “I have no idea.”

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms