Meet Ms. Pannell!

With the new year came many new staff members at Apex High School. I had the pleasure to sit down with Ms. Pannell, our new Dean of Students, and ask her a few questions to kick off her time at Apex! 

Name: Keri Pannell

Role: Dean of Students 

Do you have any kids or pets? Are you married? 

No to both [kids or pets], and I am not married. 

Where did you go to school? What did you get your degree in? 

I got my undergrad at James Madison University, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I was an English and middle school education major. I got my masters at North Carolina Central in Durham. 

You said you majored in middle school education, what made you switch to high school? 

I’ve actually taught elementary, middle, and high school. I was a fourth-grade teacher for three years, and then I moved to North Carolina and worked in middle school for about six years. Then, I interned at a high school when I was in my school counseling program and loved it. I’ve been in high school ever since. 

What do you enjoy outside of school? Hobbies? 

I used to love to travel; I haven’t done that in a while. I enjoy reading, going to museums, going to the movies, and spending time with friends and family. 

Where is your favorite place that you’ve traveled to? 

Favorite place that I have gone, out of the country, was in Jamaica. One day I’m going to go to Italy; I want to go there. My second favorite is Las Vegas, that was fun, and Florida, Vegas and Florida are tied. 

What are your thoughts about Apex so far? Likes, dislikes, etc. 

I love it! It’s a very exciting time, coming back home to Laura Duncan. Everyone just seems so nice and friendly and welcoming. It’s been great transitioning.

How does Apex compare to other schools? 

It’s much larger! It was an older school; this is a new school. It’s a different feel. The school spirit and culture is much stronger here. It’s exciting to me because I know when I was in high school we had school spirit. So it’s good to be in a place where there is so much pride in the school. That’s been the biggest difference, and I love it. 

We are glad to have you! Glad that you are feeling the spirit from our school and students. What were you like as a student? 

I was the quiet student. I was in band. I played the clarinet. I was the quiet, studious student who loved to read. I wasn’t a “teacher’s pet”, but didn’t give them any problems. I just waited until lunch and after school and clubs to talk to my friends and everything. I was an A/B student and just got my work done. 

Were there any clubs you were a part of, apart from band? 

I was in the Student Council. Of course, band took a lot of time. We had a program called SADD, Students Against Drunk Driving, I was in that. FBLA, I was in that and Spanish Club. 

What advice would you give students? 

I would say, make the most of it. These years fly by. It’s really about finding out who you are and what you want to do, trying different things and being exposed to different things. If I could go back, I probably would have done a lot more and tried different things. I wish I had. It’s a journey and enjoy the journey. It’s figuring out what you like to do, what you don’t like to do, meeting different people, learning from those people, talking to adults who had different experiences, and share. 

Looking back, talking to teachers. I was going to go to college undecided, but I was talking to my English teacher and she said, “You’re a great student and you’re a good writer, why don’t you look at that?” I didn’t really like to write, but that kind of planted a seed for me. My counselor, she was great, she would tell me, “Have you thought about this school?” I had never even heard of JMU, but I found out I had a cousin who went there, she was much older. 

Just learning from different people and networking. I never would have considered some of the things I did, had I not have met my peers and talk to them, they’d say, “Hey! We are in this club, you should come!” I’d say okay and just try it. I’d say just make the most out of it. 

If you weren’t in education, what would you be doing? 

That’s a tough question. I would still like to help people and work with people. I enjoy that. I would say, I probably or produce… so I love HGTV, I love the makeover shows. I’d want to do that. By a designer? 

Who is or has been an inspiration to you? 

I would say, my family. My family has been supportive throughout my life. Different people in my family and you know the older I get and the more experiences I have. Not just my parents but my whole family. And my friends. 

We’ve been in school, roughly three weeks, what one thing you would tell all students? Maybe specific to Apex or just high school students in general? 

So far, in the three weeks I’ve been here, I’m not out and about much. Just based on what I’ve encountered in my career, just make good choices. Whether it’s who you hang out with, if you decided I’m just going to blow this class off, or I’m not going to study as hard. Just make good choices because some of the choices you do make can impact you in the future. You would hate for a choice you made in ninth grade to impact your future and your ability to go to certain colleges. Just make good choices. 

If there is one thing that must be included in the biography about you, what would it be? 

If someone were to say something about me, I would hope they would say I’m very optimistic and positive. I think there is a lot of negativity that’s out in the world. I try not to encourage that. 

Thank you for sitting down with me for our amazing discussion and a warm Apex welcome to Ms. Pannell! We hope you enjoy it here at Apex!

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