Albemarle High School Assistant Principal Will Schaffer sees himself less as an assistant principal and more of an advocate.
His main goal as an administrator at AHS is to make sure that kids feel seen and heard, and know all of the options available to them when they leave high school, whether their track is college, a trade program, or directly into the workforce.
“I want to make sure these kids know what’s on the table,” he said. “That wasn’t necessarily something that was available to me when I was in high school. I was seen more for my track and field abilities, and less for my academic abilities.
“I never want someone to come through here and say ‘no one believed in me,’ or ‘no one challenged me to be better and succeed,’” he said.
When Mr. Schaffer was in high school, school administration was one of the last places he thought he’d end up. Instead, his path took him to the Marine Corps, where he spent four years in Okinawa and a few other bases throughout Asia — which is a time he looks back on fondly.
“I learned so much, not only in the Marine Corps, but about the different cultures in the places I was stationed,” he said.
That’s why he always encourages his students to travel if they can, to learn about different ways that people live and to see how big the world really is. Seeing the world is the best way to broaden your perspective, he says. And Mr. Schaffer had every intention of staying with the Marine Corps and enrolling in the general instructors school, until he was invited to play football at a junior college in California.
“It was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up, y’know?”
That opportunity is what started Mr. Schaffer on his educational journey. From the junior college program, he received a scholarship to play at University of Charleston, West Virginia, where he began courses for a degree in education.
“That’s where I fell in love with working with kids,” he said.
And — Mr. Schaffer said — WVU is where he met his first advocate. “I probably spent more time with my advisor there than I did some of my instructors.”
It was this advisor who encouraged Mr. Schaffer to submit an essay to a graduate program contest, which he won. His essay on the importance of the constitution to the education of special education students won him a spot in a graduate program at the University of Virginia, which brought him to Charlottesville.
“My advisor was one of the first people to believe in me academically and have my best interests in mind,” Mr. Schaffer said.
Which is why advocacy for students is the most important thing to Mr. Schaffer. Through his time as an instructor at the Blue Ridge Area Juvenile Detention Center and an AVID teacher in Charlottesville City Schools before coming to Albemarle County Public Schools as an assistant principal at Jouett Middle School in 2015, Mr. Schaffer has gotten a lot of experience with different groups of students, teachers, and other staff.
“I chose this job because I wanted to do for others what someone didn’t do for me until college,” he said. “I want to show others that people do believe in them, and support them by pointing them in the right direction.”
His biggest piece of advice for students and families that he’s guiding through the education system is one he feels fortunate to have learned and to continue to share: “Listen to those with your best interests in mind.”