By Heather Craig
When Alexis Nordin joined the RCU as a research associate in 2012, her past experience in human resources and teaching international students was an indication of the unique voice she would bring to the RCU. Nordin maintains a strong connection to the past, having an uncanny ability to notice what works and hang on to it in a field fascinated with innovation.
Nordin believes change is necessary and beneficial, but she also feels comfortable and confident moving forward with solid methods that have worked in the past. “Sometimes the old ways are still the best ways,” Nordin says. Her past teaching and administrative experience have helped her transition relatively seamlessly from teaching college students and working with industry employees to working with educators and career and technical education (CTE) students. While Nordin admits that there was a sharp learning curve for understanding K-12 educational terminology, she began her RCU work so successfully that she was made the primary liaison between the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) and the RCU for principal evaluation after only a few months.
Nordin thinks that school improvement relies heavily on open, data-driven communication about educator performance and said, “I am excited to work with the MDE to develop a principal-evaluation system that gives all principals an opportunity to receive constructive feedback.”
Nordin’s principal-evaluation duties range from developing training materials to facilitating meetings and offering support to overseeing the multirater-survey and the report-writing processes. Always ready to relate her past experiences with the present, Nordin sees the value in the principal-evaluation process because of her background in human resources. She explained, “While working in human resources, I saw firsthand how challenging it can be for managers and employees to have objective conversations about job performance and expectations.”
In addition to working with the MDE on principal evaluation, Nordin also plays a role in CTE assessment. Although her work at the RCU differs from her past in teaching and human resources, Nordin is grateful for the opportunity to continue working with both students and industry in an effort to better their career opportunities. As the liaison between national-certification regulatory entities and Mississippi CTE centers, she helps teachers, test coordinators, and CTE directors understand the testing processes for the four CTE pathways that conduct national-certification testing in lieu of statewide assessments. She also assists students in the other nine CTE pathways who desire to pursue national certification, which can serve as an alternative graduation route for high school students. In this new role, she is proud to find herself again able to use her communication talents to improve future prospects for both students and industry.
Nordin’s enjoyment of her career at the RCU is reinforced not only by her past experiences in the workplace, but also her current role at home. Encouraged by the RCU’s service-oriented culture, Nordin said, “Everyone at the RCU is committed to helping improve education for Mississippi’s children. As a mother, I love being part of a team that cares so deeply about kids.”
In her personal time, Nordin can be found renovating with her husband a Starkville historical home, taking walks with her family, watching public television, reading children’s books to her son, or scrubbing spaghetti off his high chair. She has been married for five years to her husband, Patrik, who works in recreational sports at MSU and reportedly cooks a delightful pancake breakfast for his family on Saturday mornings.
Nordin emphasized that her secret to finding balance between work and family life is to “work hard and play hard.” She admits she is fortunate to have had parents who modeled this mantra for her early on, but that she also had to train herself to recognize that perfectionism is unsustainable.
“Sometimes you have to live to fight another day. It is okay to go home and disconnect, even if you feel like there is more to do at the office. There will always be more to do,” she advises. Although sometimes seen at the RCU after hours, Nordin argues that learning to relax more has made her more productive and happy: “You can be too stressed. It doesn’t serve any purpose if it doesn’t help you work better.”