Ira B. Jones Elementary School Principal Ruafika Cobb has been named Western Region 2023 Principal of the Year.
Ms. Cobb will be one of a handful of school principals from across the state competing for the 2023 North Carolina Wells Fargo Principal of the Year title. The selected principal will serve as the North Carolina ambassador for the state’s approximately 2,500 principals.
Ms. Cobb heard the news in front of the whole school after returning from winter break. Her family, district leaders, Regional Education Facilitator for the NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) Amy Laughter, and the state’s current Principal of the Year, Dr. Patrick Greene, were on hand for the announcement.
As an educator with twenty-two years of experience, Mrs. Cobb began her career as a math and science teacher at Frisbie Middle School in Rialto, CA. She joined Asheville City Schools in 2005 and has been here ever since. She has been a teacher, math coach, assistant principal, and principal in the district, and has served at the elementary, middle, and high school levels for the past 17 years.
Mrs. Cobb began her Asheville City Schools tenure as an Algebra I teacher at Asheville Middle School. She took a leadership role during her tenure, ensuring equitable mathematics learning. As the Founder and Director of Asheville Middle School’s Algebra Academy, she built the program from the ground up. This program was designed for historically underserved students to master algebra, considered a critical “gatekeeper” subject because its mastery is necessary for students to advance in math, technology, and science, and is a valuable academic resource to college attendance.
Her work with the Algebra Academy has been recognized by UNC Asheville’s Multicultural Center and featured in the article “Project Targets Math Literacy.” Dr. Robert Moses, a key student leader in the Civil Rights Movement and President and Founder of The Algebra Project, helped bring the Algebra Academy into a national spotlight, featuring it as part of The Algebra Project website.
Mrs. Cobb has also received the District’s Outstanding Teaching Award and an Outstanding Secondary Math Teacher recognition by the NC Council of Teachers in Mathematics; and honored by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County for her contributions to the community of Asheville.
In addition to juggling her principalship responsibilities, Mrs. Cobb was an adult education math teacher at A-B Tech from 2015-2017 and was asked to present at the 2017 and 2018 Integrated Comprehensive System for Equity National Conferences. She is also a current board member of the Asheville City Schools Foundation and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Mrs. Cobb earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Tuskegee University and a master’s in Education Leadership from East Tennessee State University. This past spring, she completed the Distinguished Leaders in Practice program through the NC Principals and Assistant Principals Association. Currently, she is working on her Doctorate of Educational Leadership Degree at Western Carolina University.
Mrs. Cobb is an equity-centered instructional leader who believes all students must feel safe at school. She strives to create a school environment where students are authentically engaged in culturally relevant and responsive experiences, higher-order thinking, and problem-solving; students must find what they are learning relevant to their own lives. This learning starts with students contributing to an established positive learning environment that considers the full diversity of their cultural backgrounds and experiences.
Mrs. Cobb firmly believes that positive and strong relationships are the key to students becoming independent learners and that all students are capable of learning. With the proper guidance and encouragement, she believes education should be fun, challenging, engaging, and accessible to all. And most importantly, Mrs. Cobb believes there is a genius inside of every kid.
When away from school, Mrs. Cobb enjoys scrapbooking, baking, cooking, traveling, and spending time with her family. She and her husband Demeseh are the parents of three children, Kokayi, Keyvaun, and Ashanti.
About this Award
The Wells Fargo Principal of the Year Award was introduced in 1984 to recognize the role of the principal in establishing an environment conducive to academic excellence in North Carolina’s schools. One of Wells Fargo’s long-standing goals is to be a good corporate citizen in the communities where it does business and to demonstrate its education support enthusiastically. Where education is valued, communities are enriched.