Making magic

Disney recognizes principal for his dedication to students and community

James Gordon

SUMMARY: James Gordon (’03) (left) works tirelessly to ensure his students receive the best education by guiding them and supporting his staff every step of the way.

By Shayla Brown (’20)

James Gordon III (’03) always knew he wanted to work in an elementary school.

He drew inspiration from his mother, who always wanted to become a teacher but didn’t have the opportunity. He also is motivated by great mentors and through the work he gets to do with his students.

While at JMU, Gordon was a resident adviser and participated in The Impact Movement through Campus Crusade for Christ, campus choirs and ministries, as well as intramural basketball and football.

He was also accepted into the Honors program, where he got the chance to hear incredible speakers like Coretta Scott King and Principal Joe Clare.

His Madison Experience helped shape his nurturing traits as an educator. “At JMU, as a part of Impact, I was called a foot washer. I facilitated a small group Bible study, and as a foot washer I served people,” Gordon said.

After finishing student teaching, he returned home to Henrico County for his first position in education as a teacher at Mt. Vernon Alternative School.

“I was their fourth teacher that school year, so I was coming into a pretty tough environment based upon multiple people already transitioning out of that classroom. But I was so grateful and up to the challenge,” Gordon said. “I really just focused initially on building relationships, establishing rapport and then working through the academic process of rigorous instruction.”

Gordon served in several other teaching and administrative roles before becoming a principal.

“I got an opportunity to become a principal at Oak Grove-Bellemeade Elementary in Richmond Public Schools, and this is my fourth year as a principal,” he said. “The difference in the transition when you’re in the chair as a principal is that you are now responsible for the entirety of the school. You’re the person to work through the ups, downs and anything in between.”

Gordon compared his role as a “foot washer” at JMU to his experiences as a principal. “I’m in that same capacity as a principal now. I navigate through issues and problems as they arise,” Gordon said. “I support teachers, families and students. If a kid wrote on the wall with a pencil, I’m erasing it.”

James Gordon at Disney
James Gordon (’03) (center) on his trip to Disney World

Gordon acknowledged the importance of representing his schools and Richmond’s Hillside community in an authentic manner.

 “We service students of the Hillside community, otherwise known as Hillside projects, but I always tell people Hillside community, because we still have hope for the future and for their futures specifically,” Gordon said.

Recognized for his dedication to his students as well as his judicious mindset, Gordon was named a Magic Maker — one of only 50 across the country — by The Walt Disney Co. Magic Makers are nominated by loved ones and admirers who want their hard work and dedication to their communities, schools, workplaces and nonprofits to be recognized.

“It was positive for my school community,” Gordon said of his outstanding experience going to Disney World. “Oak Grove-Bellemeade Elementary doesn’t always get positive press. The lens when it’s something that’s positive, it’s for the community. It’s about everybody else. Let’s just share the love and enthusiasm.”

Gordon is pursuing his doctorate at Regent University, but for him, the kids and his community will always come first.

“I’m a servant, so anything that needs to be done, that’s my job, to support my teachers and my students,” Gordon said. “I try my best to be relatable and approachable. Kids see me on the morning announcements and in the cafeteria. Yes, I’m still the principal, but he’s touchable, he’s approachable, he’s in this with us.”


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Published: Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Last Updated: Thursday, January 4, 2024

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