Principal, Darlington Middle School
Eddie Shuler has tattoos on one arm. Three words: Commitment. Attitude. Pride.
He has made CAP – the acronym – his guiding principles at Darlington Middle School where he has worked as a principal motivating students, faculty, and staff toward excellence since 2013.
“We give out CAPS awards in our building,” said Shuler. (He and his faculty added an S for service.) “We believe it takes a strong level of commitment to succeed at anything. Success requires the right positive attitude. We encourage pride in all we do … and a mindset that we serve one another, our community, and the greater good.”
Shuler got the tattoos when he played college football at South Carolina State University. As circumstances took him off the gridiron and into coaching, then teaching, he kept the body art private, an undercover personal code. Still, as those powerful words motivated him on the playing field, they also shaped his philosophy in the classroom and as an administrator.
“I guess I’m the typical kid who had a football dream,” said Shuler. “I wanted to go to the NFL, then I wanted to be a football coach. I never once tell people I set out to be a principal. But at a certain point, I began seeing my own path. I’ll say that God puts you where he wants you to be.”
Shuler believes that a great deal of what he learned coaching athletes and building teams in the Orangeburg County School District and at other local sports programs applies directly to the day-to-day coaching and building of young scholars.
“Our mission as educators is to motivate,” he said. “That’s not really so different from the coach’s mission – motivating players to be their best and building teams that work together to be excellent.”
Shuler keeps himself and his team of educators focused on one element he considers most important in all coaching and teaching.
“It’s how we connect,” he said.
“Building motivation among faculty and students is all about how we connect. Transferring knowledge requires establishing a relationship. You can be a pure genius, but if you’re not able to connect with others, you won’t ever be able to transfer information and motivate their performance.”
Shuler has found that Teach For America South Carolina (TFASC) educators have a unique ability to connect in ways that matter. During his first year as principal of Darlington Middle School, he hired four TFASC teachers. He continues to laud the talents and support the development of the “crops of young, brilliant, and service-oriented TFASC people” at his school and in South Carolina.
“When you develop this type of culture, a CAPS culture, it’s infectious, and it spreads,” said Shuler. “You won’t take too many steps into Darlington Middle School before somebody says, ‘How can I help you?’ It’s a service culture. TFASC’s principles have contributed in a big way to this.”
So will Shuler’s next tattoo read “TFASC?”
“I might be done with my tattoos,” he laughed. “But it’s for sure that the TFASC training and vision tie into the vision we have at Darlington Middle School and make it more powerful.”