‘Why I do what I do’

Silver dollar serves as reminder of Knight’s history and philosophy

New SHS principal Brian Knight carries this silver dollar in his pocket daily. The silver dollar symbolizes a deep history for him and his family.

Photo by Madelyn Knight

New SHS principal Brian Knight carries this silver dollar in his pocket daily. The silver dollar symbolizes a deep history for him and his family.

Lyndsay Valadez, Reporter

As SHS principal Brian Knight walks the hallways passing students and teachers, doing all things a principal needs to do, he carries a silver dollar in his pocket.
The coin is a reminder of how his grandparents kept their family going by ensuring that, even when times were financially challenging, there was always a silver dollar in the family.
“As long as (my grandfather) had that silver dollar he would never be broke,” Knight said.
Because of his grandparents, Knight says he leans heavily on “intentionality” and favors process over outcome. To Knight, the silver dollar represents more than just a monetary value of 100 cents. This coin keeps his focus on what’s truly important.
“Just recognizing the work that people put in everyday because that’s (what should be) valued and that’s (what’s) important,” Knight said.
Knight’s family has shaped his values immensely. Knight’s grandparents grew up poor and didn’t graduate high school. One of his grandfather’s employers gave him a silver dollar. At times, it was the only money he and his wife had. Knight’s grandmother never let anyone spend it despite their feelings of desperation and hopelessness. Later in life, his grandmother kept a safe of silver dollars with just enough silver dollars for each grandchild. Knight always keeps the silver dollar minted in his birth year in his pocket.
Knight’s grandparents did not always know how to help Knight’s dad. He grew up poor but benefited a lot from teacher guidance and support. Many teachers took him to visit colleges and talked to him about taking the SAT. He then became a teacher, assistant principal and eventually a principal due to this. His dad made him realize the leadership of and reasoning behind teachers. Knight’s mom is also a teacher, and together they influenced Knight’s decision to become a teacher.
“I’m very inspired by all of their work,” Knight said.
Southport Middle School Principal Stephanie Quinlan worked with Knight for five years and thinks he has left a big impact on the middle school and will leave that impact on SHS.
“I think the silver dollar is a physical reminder in his pocket to remind him why he does what he does everyday,” Quinlan said.
Quinlan is familiar with Knight’s educational philosophies, and like Knight, she views outcomes as checkpoints and thinks that there is always room for improvement.
“Life is a process, learning is a process. If all we focus on is the end result, then when we get to the end result what do we do?” Quinlan said.
Through Knight’s family’s struggles, he’s learned that processes are more important than outcomes. The same philosophy can apply to school. An example, he says, would be a student receiving an A on one test and a B on the next. For each test students will learn and study generally the same way as they did on their past test. There was not necessarily less effort, it was just the outcome of that specific test.
Knight has two blogs, “In the Middle of It” and “180 Days of Learning.” Each blog covers different material in different ways, but each shows appreciation for the classroom. He makes it a daily goal to visit at least five classes.
“A lot of it comes down to this: You have to care more about who people are than what they do,” Knight said.
SHS senior Prisilla Sui knew Knight before either one of them came to SHS. To Sui, Knight seems more involved than other principals she’s met throughout her school career. Sui went to Perry Meridian before coming to SHS and never felt judged by him. She has always felt encouraged, inspired and included when talking to him. Knight believes that it is not an administrator’s job “to find talent, but to develop talent.”
“Every student in this school has potential in becoming what they want to be,” Sui said.
Throughout Knight’s own high school career, he and the other grandkids would receive five silver dollars on Christmas and birthdays from their grandparents. Now, he plans on continuing the silver dollar tradition in hopes that he will imprint the same memories upon his children the way his family did to him.
“It’s just a reminder of who I am and why I do what I do,” Knight said.