Phyllis Gamble brings an entirely different path to her new appointment as the North Augusta Middle School principal – seven years with the Army on active duty, and in 2005, nine months in Afghanistan with the Army Reserves.
She would not change that experience, helping the women there on many levels.
“There was a lot of poverty, but the young girls were hungry for education,” Gamble said. “A pencil was a piece of gold to them, and they would use each one to the nub.”
After moving to North Augusta, she was hired at North Augusta Middle School in 2006. In 2012, Gamble split her time between the classroom and work as an assistant principal. For the past year, she was the full-time assistant principal – and is now succeeding Wendy Jacobs as the new North Augusta Middle School principal.
“It’s an honor to be here and contribute to what I call ‘a tradition of academic excellence,’” Gamble said. “The faculty cares about the students, and everyone is so supportive.”
While in college at the University of Maryland-Baltimore in the mid-1980s, she happened to see the iconic Army ad with its catchphrase “Be all you can be.” That resonated with Gamble, who spent the last two years of college in ROTC and was eager to travel and meet other people. She was commissioned into the Army as a second lieutenant, assigned to Fort Gordon for the Signal Corps.
When she moved to this area, she joined the Reserves in 1999 and worked in the business field while earning a certification in special education. Gamble had long considered administration and in 2012, received a master’s degree in education leadership at Augusta State University.
She remains worried about the ongoing discord in Afghanistan, as well as the rapidly-escalating conflicts in the Middle East and Russia. Four years after 9/11, unrest in Afghanistan was escalating, as well. While Gamble spent most of her time working civil affairs in the capital of Kabul, she traveled around the country, and “war was going on for sure.”
She and a colleague worked in refugee camps, helping with the education system, health concerns and projects to build new schools.
“We reached out to the communities, telling people about America to try winning their hearts,” Gamble said. “The girls hadn’t been in schools, and it was a new thing for them.”
While she was grateful to return to the U.S., Gamble values the opportunity to learn about a different culture and the challenges the women faced on a daily basis.
“Women’s affairs are a passion for me,” she said. “It was important for me to see the issues they faced. I learned so much.”
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter.