GREENBRIER—Greenbrier High School Principal John Ashworth believes that God works in strange and miraculous ways. Were it not for a broken leg the day before he was to ship to Afghanistan, his life would be very different. In 2009, he was the Principal at Bigelow School and kids have always loved him — enough to high five, give him signs of “hey,” and/or give him a loving nudge of recognition. Ashworth was making rounds on the last day, last hour before shipping out early the next morning when one of those students gave him a loving “nudge,” then accidentally fell on him. All the weight came down on Ashworth’s leg and broke it. It was one of those freak accidents that allowed Ashworth to make graduation for “his kids” and kept him home from the military. Ten days later, he got a call to submit his application to Greenbrier, wondering if he would be interested in being Principal at Greenbrier Junior High School.
Ashworth is starting fourteen years as an educator and life has been a series of little miracles along the way. He said, “Hard work was instilled in me at a young age by my grandfather, along with perseverance.”
After graduating from UCA with his Bachelor’s degree in Biology, he returned home to Fort Smith. He had met and married the love of his life at UCA and they both loved central Arkansas and wanted to return. He took a one year temporary student teaching job in Greenbrier in 2000 and then moved on to the Bigelow school system. He taught Life Sciences and coached baseball and basketball for four years, and then was Principal for two more years. He received his Master’s degree from UCA in Leadership and Administration in 2008. Ashworth is a member of the Air National Guard, 188th Fighter Wing since 2001. He spent three months active duty in Iraq in 2005 as a weapons loader on F-16 jets.
Ashworth’s eyes light up, though, when he talks about kids. Although his experience is mostly with ages seven through twelve with Junior High students, he is now excited about working with the high school ages. His over-riding philosophy in life has always been to love your neighbor. He said, “In any place in life, whether it’s education, raising a family, or working anywhere, it’s all about relationships. If you take the greatest commandment — to love your neighbor, then things are going to go well.” He gave the example of coaching a team: “If those kids know you care and you encourage them to do that for each other, it changes their thinking and means so much more”.
Ashworth shared the best advice ever given to him by college Professor Dr. Earl Walton whom he considered one of his mentors. Walton told him, “You must hire good people to surround you.” Ashworth refuses to take credit for the fine school that GHS is, instead claiming he is surrounded by the best staff anywhere of 70 teachers, aides, Para-professionals, cafeteria, and maintenance. He said, “They make me look good. My two Assistant Principals are the best!” Teachers vie to get into this District and they stay a long time.
During orientation last week parents and students both exclaimed about the beauty of the new Literacy and Social Studies Building on campus. Ready for school opening, “It is a state-of-the-art ten classroom, green building complete with its own computer lab,” he said. Lights are automatically controlled, a great security system is in place, and a green-controlled A/C system are some of its features. The new tennis courts are coming soon. “Our new Media Center (once called a Library) is also completely renovated to meet today’s generational needs.”
Ashworth and his wife, Pam, juggle two careers as she works part-time as a Speech Therapist while grandparents help baby-sit. He calls Pam “my Hero.” The other joys in his life are their four children ages ten, seven, five, and two — three girls and a boy.
This humble, soft-speaking man imparts his core values of integrity, respect, excellence, and perseverance to all who meet him. Ashworth advocates he wants to be a “servant leader”, to lead by example and do everything he can to serve the needs of others. He says, “That’s what drives me. I’m always wondering how I can improve everything.” If I can have students who graduate and prepare for a successful life in front of them, that will make me feel good.” He wants GHS students to be the best prepared there is so that others say, “How do they do that at Greenbrier?” Rest assured, with that attitude your children are in good hands in Greenbrier High School — and all because he missed a flight to Afghanistan.