New North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts principal hired from within
When Thomas Millins left as principal of the North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts, he left a string of accomplishments.
And just as when Millins came to the school four years ago, his replacement has been hired from within, assuring the school of a smooth transition.
Andrea Gunns, who has spent the past four years as assistant principal at NFMAA after a well-travelled career, will be named new principal, her first head principal gig in her 32 years as an educator.
“I was in shock. I told Dr. Adkins that I felt like I has won the lottery. It was a goal of mine, but I never expected it. It doesn’t seem real,” Gunns said. “I feel happy and appreciative.”
Gunns was born and raised in the Erie, Pennsylvania, area and started her teaching career there, primarily in elementary school. She came to NFMAA 16 years ago after seeing job opportunities in the district.
Gunns also has taught preschool, worked as a drug and alcohol prevention specialist, an educational consultant and even worked at a prison to teach inmates how to read.
“I always said I wanted to move to Florida. So, I got on the phone and spoke with Douglas Santini (the principal back then), set up five interviews, and got hired here as a kindergarten teacher,” Gunns said.
She taught at NFMAA for three years before going to Mirror Lakes to become a teacher leader, reading coach and other leadership jobs. She also taught and became a teacher leader at Diplomat Elementary in Cape Coral for a year.
After returning to Pennsylvania for a year, she came back to NFMAA to become assistant principal in 2015 after Millins took over.
She left to become assistant principal for the Veterans Park Academy for the Arts in Lehigh Acres, but returned to NFMAA the following year.
“It’s in my heart. The students, teachers, children, families, it’s such a family atmosphere. I’ve been running the arts for four years, but I’ve been involved since I started here,” said Gunns, whose three children went through the school. “I took dance and was in ‘The Nutcracker’ growing up, so the arts have always been a part of my life.”
As for what she will do at NFMAA, Gunns said she worked closely with Millins and attends nearly all the events at the school pertaining to the arts.
She anticipates the school continuing to move forward in the arts and academically.
“I’ve worked with our arts team to get to the next level. I’ve attended conferences and gotten involved with other people in the arts. I’ve been trying to do some innovative things here in academics,” Gunns said. “There will be big shoes to fill, but I look forward to bringing our school to the next level.”
But the real question remains: Who will she play in “The Nutcracker?” The principal has usually played Uncle Drosselmeyer, but that was when there was a male principal.
“I don’t know. My costume person said they may have to make a female Drosselmeyer,” Gunns said. “I give the teachers the autonomy to do that. I trust them.”
Millins is now the principal at Pine Island Elementary School.