Local Folks: Monique Worthen

Local Folks: Monique Worthen
Monique Worthen at a performance with Beautiful Feet Arts Company.

Jacksonville native Monique Worthen has been an educator for 19 years and has a passion for helping others. For the past seven years, she has been the principal at Venetia Elementary School, and in that role, she serves as the face of the school. Recently, her passion for the position landed her as Principal of the Year for Region 2 for Duval County Public Schools.

“I’m more the behind-the-scenes type, but in this role, I have to be in the front more,” Worthen said. “I just like to do the work and help get it done.”

At the end of the day, her goal is always to do what is best and right for the children, in addition to serving as a support system for her teachers and staff amid the ever-changing rules and regulations coming down from the state and federal levels.

“Every decision, everything that I do is for my staff and the students,” she said. “There are hard days, but I love it.”

While doing so can be challenging, she emphasizes the need to understand that her teachers and staff have a life outside of school and that their personal journeys affect their job.

“You have to take care of them as a person first, before all the academic stuff,” she said. “I try to keep that at the forefront, keeping the goal in mind.”

Worthen celebrating being named Principal of the Year for Region 2 for Duval County Public Schools.
Worthen celebrating being named Principal of the Year for Region 2 for Duval County Public Schools.

Prior to her principal position, Worthen had initially taught first, second and third grades before becoming a reading coach at Normandy Village, followed by Venetia Elementary, where she then moved up to assistant principal. As a teacher, she enjoyed sharing ideas with her colleagues. She then realized if she transitioned to a reading coach, she could share those ideas with even more teachers and help more people. Then, after three years, she decided she wanted to reach even more students, teachers and staff and moved into the administrative side of education.

“Being able to analyze, observe and give teachers feedback on what needs to be done or what I feel would help them was always a passion for me,” Worthen said. “And to help others strive for academic excellence and have that belief system that all students can learn.”

The key is finding what each student connects with and what can help them be successful, she said.

“Everybody has a positive or something they can add to learning, to the story. So that’s what I try to do.”

In her spare time, Worthen dances ballet, jazz and African dance with Beautiful Feet Arts Company, which is a faith-based Christian arts company. The organization’s goal is to help the community through performances at prayer, women’s and dance conferences. 

She also loves spending time with her family, most of which still live in Jacksonville. Her mother, Josephine, is her best friend.

Josephine Worthen was a single mother and had Monique when she was 17 years old.

Monique Worthen with her No. 1 supporter, her mother, Josephine Worthen.
Monique Worthen with her No. 1 supporter, her mother, Josephine Worthen.

“She just went into the workforce and made sure I always had what I needed,” Worthen said. “I always saw her working hard and just doing it.” She credits her mother with instilling in her a strong work ethic and discipline toward taking care of business and getting things done.

“She’s always there to help and support me,” Worthen said. “She definitely helped me build that foundation of who I am.”

Worthen is also a big fan of true crime – especially a “good mystery.” She enjoys getting cozy on the couch and catching up on Netflix, movies and shows. When she needs some major R&R, she likes to book a spa day. Ponte Vedra Inn and Club and the Ritz Carlton in Amelia Island are two of her favorites.

In her early days as principal, she recalled bringing a lot of work home over the weekends, which began to take its toll and prompted her current policy of no-work Saturdays.

“I don’t pick up my laptop. I don’t check my email,” she said. “I try to really set some of those boundaries. You have to learn how to have that work-life balance.”

So what’s on the horizon for Worthen? As a woman of faith, Worthen said she has been praying about what she should do next. She would love to write a book about going through challenges with endurance and grace, or maybe one outlining the characteristics that help people succeed in education, or perhaps even parlay that into being a principal coach – a position that doesn’t exist yet, but she hopes it will someday.

“I would love to coach new principals, in year one to three, to kind of help set them up for success. I like the coaching role,” she said.

Although she doesn’t have an immediate plan yet – which isn’t typical for her – Worthen is ok with that. 

“I’m learning in this season of my life, just to be content where I’m at now,” she said.

By Jennifer Jensen
Resident Community News

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)