She is a beloved icon of senior year for students at Cape Coral High School. No one who has stepped foot in her class can forget her striking blue eyes that glitter with life when a student answers a question correctly, or her devilish smile that exudes both sarcasm and affection.
Leslie Cornwell, who teaches English at Cape High, is one of the most recognizable and prominent figures in the school’s faculty. In the upcoming 2020-21 school year, she will be promoted to the position of Assistant Principal.
The journey to this point has been a long one for Cornwell. After she graduated high school, she went to college for a few years before she married young and stayed home to raise her family.
After sending the youngest of her three children to kindergarten, Cornwell began working in corporate and retail human resources. However, this line of work did not resonate with her. “My first career was unfulfilling and not conducive to family life with kids,” she said.
In the search for another career, she considered her passion for teaching students. “I had been volunteering in my own children’s classroom and knew I loved it. I also love kids so I thought it might be a better fit for me,” Cornwell said.
When her oldest child entered high school, Cornwell returned to college and earned her B.S. in Elementary Education. This translated to her first job in education as a reading teacher at Gulf Middle School.
Since then, she transferred to Cape High to teach as an English teacher and also has earned an M. Ed in Reading and an M. Ed in Educational Leadership along the way.
Throughout the years, Cornwell has developed fond memories of teaching her students. “I will miss being in a classroom talking about literature so much. I will miss the banter back and forth that can only be shared when relationships are firmly built,” Cornwell said.
These relationships are mutual, as students appreciate the impact Cornwell had on them. “Ms. Cornwell has been a very influential teacher personally for me. She has been very helpful with not only my English, but also with my future career by teaching me how to write better,” said Jordan Edwards, an IB senior at Cape High. “She wrote a great college recommendation letter which got me into MIT, my dream school.”
Now, Cornwell will transition from a career as a teacher to a career in education administration. “Choosing to pursue administration was a difficult decision. I absolutely love being in a classroom with students; however, just as I hope my students do, I also want to continue to grow,” she said.
Christian Engelhart, the principal at Cape High, made the ultimate decision to add Cornwell as a school administrator. “She [Cornwell] has a great deal of experience and is already a leader in our school, so I know that the transition will go well,” Engelhart said. “She excels with communication and is a great problem solver. These are two extremely important skills for any administrator.”
Cornwell’s leadership skills are praised by her students as well. “She is very nice but she can be firm when she needs to be, which I think are good qualities of a leader,” Edwards said. “I think she’s going to do a very good job as an admin because of her leadership qualities and how she can take control of the many different situations that may arise.”
The choice to stay in the education industry reflects Cornwell’s belief in the importance of education. “Education is about teaching students to think for themselves. It’s about learning to have an open mind and to see people as individuals with their own stories. It’s about showing that change can happen within your own small world,” she said.
As an assistant principal at Cape High, Cornwell will continue to work and grow with the students and faculty at the school. “For now, I just want to support our amazing teachers and get to know all of our students a little bit better. I couldn’t be more excited to get to continue this journey with my Seahawk family,” she said.