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Principal Profile: Cece Montgomery

By Trevor Hawes
Midland ISD

Teachers change lives, a fact Cece Montgomery, principal of Lamar Elementary, knows firsthand.

Montgomery struggled in kindergarten and first grade — her challenge common yet often unaddressed.

“I was disinterested in what I was being taught, plain and simple,” the Jacksonville, Texas-native said. “I would do whatever I could to just get the day over with, and I even figured out ways to cheat on tests.”

“I was on a path of destruction,” she added with a laugh. That changed in second grade.

She credits Deborah Wade, her second grade teacher, with motivating her to learn and altering the trajectory of her life.

“Mrs. Wade was phenomenal,” Montgomery said. “What she did differently was took time with students to ensure they understood the material and affirmed students when they were successful. She made me feel good about learning, and it was this experience that imbued in me a lifelong love of learning.”

This experience also was key in crafting her approach to education: as a nurturer.

“Working in education is perfect for me because I love developing people into becoming successful,” Montgomery said. “As a child, I was the one who played teacher with my dolls. Even my teddy bears were my students.”

After high school, where she was a three-sport athlete, Montgomery entered the University of Texas at Tyler as a pre-law major. She set her sights on becoming a judge. However, after a rash of judges nationwide being threatened and even attacked, she changed course and studied English literature with the intention of making her mark in the classroom. 

Once she found herself in the classroom, as a teacher instead of a student, she realized that what she learned about teaching in college is but a sliver of the knowledge an educator needs to be effective.

“To be a teacher means becoming a master of multitasking,” Montgomery said. “Ensuring each child gets a great education is challenging when you have 25, 30 unique personalities at a given time. However, you have to get to know each individual child. You have to invest your time into them. You have to nurture them, let them know you care.”

Montgomery’s pathway to administration was through instruction. After earning her master’s in instructional leadership from Lamar University, she applied for an assistant principal position but didn’t get it.

“I just wasn’t ready yet,” she said. “I didn’t get what I wanted, but I got what I needed.” She jumped on the opportunity to be an instructional coach. “I’m a go-getter for other people, and my superpower was working side by side with other teachers.”

Montgomery rose through the ranks as an assistant principal and academic dean before signing on as a principal in Crockett ISD. She had spent the entirety of her life in East Texas until an advertisement on LinkedIn piqued her interest — and she answered the call.

She saw that Midland ISD was searching for a new principal at Lamar Elementary, and after much research and soul-searching, she applied, interviewed and traded in the Piney Woods for the Petroplex.

“People don’t work for jobs or companies; people work for people,” Montgomery said. “When I arrived in Midland, I knew this is where I wanted to be. And I feel like I’ve been blessed to be at Lamar.”

Montgomery is in her second year at Lamar, and 16th in education overall. “I tell my kids that they can do whatever they put their mind to,” she said. “Education has to be innovative, and we have great kids and the right people in place to achieve academic excellence and give students the tools they need to become whatever they want to be..”