Rushing principal pleased to return to middle school

Lisa Ferguson
Prosper Press
Rushing Middle School Principal Danielle Wallace poses for a photo in the school library Aug. 11. The campus is one of three new Prosper ISD schools that opened last week.

Danielle Wallace is the first to admit that she belongs in middle school.

During her nearly three decades as an educator, she has taught students and worked as an administrator at several elementary and secondary school campuses.

Fourteen of those years have been with Prosper ISD, where she has previously taught at Rucker Elementary School and Rogers Middle School.

She also taught at Reynolds Middle School and was its dean of instruction before serving as principal at Baker Elementary School.

It is among tweens and young teens that Wallace said she feels most at home.

“I love the mindset, I love the challenge, I love the snarky (attitude). You get all those things that are probably part of my personality that I appreciate in kids” of this age, she said.

So, it is probably safe to assume that no one was more excited last week than Wallace in anticipation of the first day of classes at Rushing Middle School, where she is principal.

Rushing is one of three new Prosper ISD campuses, along with Johnson Elementary School and Rock Hill High School, that opened Aug. 12.

With the school year underway, more than half of Rushing’s student body is attending in-person classes, while several hundred students are studying remotely.

Earlier this month, students and parents were allowed to tour the new facility.

Meanwhile, on Aug. 11, teachers were putting the final touches on classrooms the day before the first school bell rang.

Orchestra teacher Caitlyn Nguyen worked on a whiteboard in her large classroom, where much of the floor space was occupied by chairs and music stands.

Outdoor education teacher Carrie Labhart was nearly finished decorating her room, complete with log cabin-esque wall coverings and other rustic touches that nod to the course’s content, including lessons in fishing, boating and archery, among others.

There was no mistaking the art classroom, with its mosaic tile-inspired door. The space overlooks an outdoor courtyard that students can access.

Flat-screen monitors were situated on long tables lining the walls of the yearbook and photojournalism classroom. Meanwhile, students enrolled in digital journalism have a sizable green screen to utilize during productions.

Gymnasium floors gleamed in anticipation of basketball games and other events. In the nearby weight room, medicine balls adorned with the school’s purple Raptor logo were housed on racks.

In the library, books filled wheeled shelves. The individual units are connected by strong magnets and can be separated to allow the space, which is flooded with natural light courtesy of a massive wall of windows, to be reconfigured as needed.

Wallace said she wants Rushing’s “building to be the best building. I want these people to be the most effective teachers. I want these kids to be safe.”

Opening a new campus was not without its challenges, which she said were largely logistical in nature.

“You’re juggling maintenance and facilities, and furniture and deliveries … and I think that’s with any opening, whether you open a business or a school,” she said. “I think the benefit that we have is that our final stopping point (was having) kids in this building and being able to serve them. … You just remind yourself you’re creating this phenomenal space for these kids.”

Wallace said she is equally focused on Rushing’s teachers, who have been “amazing” as they’ve adapted to teaching students in the classroom and online this semester amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“They’ve been willing to just go with the flow. This whole virtual and in-person instruction really has been a challenge, but I feel like instruction is one of my strengths, and I feel like we hired for that ... and so their attitude has just been phenomenal.”

Still, “I really want to make sure that they are not overloaded because of having to deliver instruction both ways. … We have to be careful to take care of them,” she said.

Wallace also praised Rushing’s team of assistant principals, calling them “phenomenal. … Their attitude is the same as mine: We’re gonna have fun, we’re gonna take care of these teachers, and these kids are gonna learn.”

Despite these uncertain times, Wallace assured parents that Rushing students are “gonna have a phenomenal time. They’re gonna learn, they’re gonna grow and they’re gonna be safe, so just trust us.”

The Rushing Middle School Raptors logo is painted above a hallway outside of the library.