At the same time that teachers and administrators at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School were preparing for the new school year, Emanuel Mathis ’98 was in the same boat. Now in his third year as principal of fifth-eighth grades at KIPP Woodson Park Academy, Mr. Mathis leads the vision, strategy, programs and people at his school, as well as any challenges that arise.
“I’m constantly pushing toward our goal,” Mr. Mathis said. “I want to ensure that our kids are growing academically and socially and growing their character.”
The middle years represent a time of change for many young people; they need a strong support system at home and at school.
“I had really good memories of my middle school days and I like to give scholars an example of how to look at life,” Mr. Mathis said. “This is an age group that I like and there’s a great satisfaction with pouring back into young people. And they definitely keep me on my toes.”
Mr. Mathis has worked in three different KIPP Metro Atlanta schools in roles including learning specialist, math teacher, athletic director, basketball coach, instructional coach and assistant principal. He previously served as manager of basketball development for the Atlanta Hawks. While his resume is filled with achievements, he is most proud to be the father of his five-year-old daughter, Parker Simone.
He also coaches basketball for KIPP Atlanta Collegiate High School, facing off against the HIES Golden Bears in a tournament a few years ago. Mr. Mathis was a star player for the varsity Golden Bears and was inducted into the Wall of Fame in 2009. He averaged more than 27 points per game as a senior and scored 1,601 career points. Totaling more than 600 rebounds, he was named 1st-team All-State, the 1998 6A Player of the Year, the runner-up State player of the year and was on the Atlanta Tip-off Club Metro Team of the year.
Showing up at The 805 to coach his KIPP players in that tournament was a little nerve-wracking. “I felt like I had the wrong uniform on but I also felt at home,” he said. “Everyone gave me a warm welcome.”
He maintains close friendships with his HIES classmates and teammates. Starting at HIES in ninth grade, he was terrified in the beginning. “From my first week at HIES to my last week, I never would have expected that I would bond with people the way I did,” he said. “I loved being part of a team and those relationships have lasted longer than any other.”
Mr. Mathis was the first HIES student to earn a Division I basketball scholarship. He signed with Florida State University, where he played for two years before transferring to Virginia Commonwealth University. In Virginia, he averaged 11 points and four rebounds per contest and was the team captain for two, 20-win seasons. He was also named to the 1st team All-Academic team as a senior. He earned a B.S. and a Master’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Mr. Mathis was a featured speaker at the opening of the STEM Building at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School on August 21, 2015. He addressed the students in an all-school assembly that followed the ribbon-cutting for the building.
The strong work ethic that he developed as a student and as a basketball player certainly support all that he aims to accomplish as a school leader. Navigating public education in a post-Covid world has caused him to rethink his school’s day-to-day learning plan.
“Covid exposed a lot – education is not a one-size-fits-all approach,” he said. “Public education has not evolved enough and we have shifted the way we look at the work. Education is not just what is happening at the school; it is all around us. Kids are learning all day everywhere and education can grow beyond the walls.”