James Slay finds school family at Gap Creek

Susan EspirituOur Town Neighbors, South Knox

Martin Luther King said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” When I first met James Slay, his eyes told his heart like another great spokesman said of them being the window to the soul. I knew James had the “it” needed to be an exceptional leader and supporter of teachers, students and communities.

Slay took the leap of faith into administration from teaching fifth grade and applied for the Leadership Academy where he found a home as an assistant principal at Green Magnet Academy.

He has continued on his administration journey finding a home at Gap Creek Elementary that he affectionately calls, the best kept secret in Knox County.

Says James, “We are a small, but mighty school. Our students, parents, staff and community are one big family and we make it our mission to work together to ensure that each student has everything they need to be successful. Moreover, our staff is committed to our vision of empowering students to be proficient readers, problem-solvers, to have a growth mindset, and a passion for learning. ”

Gap Creek Elementary School

I worked with James Slay in many capacities while I was in the system, so I know he is intentionally caring for each of his teachers and staff members because he knows they are on the front lines of delivering high-quality instruction to every child.

James experienced the reality of the Gap Creek bond as double tragedies struck within days, compounding grief and loss for James and his family in 2022. His younger sister died in a car accident over winter break and his family lost almost everything they owned when his house caught fire on Christmas Eve.

Slay reflects on those events, “The staff, students, parents and community members showered my family and me with so much love and support that helped me push through that difficult time. I am forever grateful for all of them and I have never been this certain in my life that I was divinely sent here.”

As Shakespeare said, “The eyes are the window to the soul.” You only have to look into James Slay’s eyes to know his soul. Gap Creek has one of a kind and I knew it all along!

All of us have a story and I want to tell yours! Send them to susan@knoxtntoday.com


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