Robin Hewitt

Robin Hewitt

HAINES CITY — Robin Hewitt, Bethune Academy’s new principal, says she plans to turn up the heat to 212 degrees for the 2020-21 school year.

That is the temperature at which water begins to boil — and Hewitt says she wants students, teachers and administrators to “turn up the heat” and do their parts in making this school year a memorable one.

“Students can expect to have a first day of school like they’ve never had,” she said. “This is an unprecedented time and I want parents and students to know that we are following the guidelines set forth by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and our amazing (Polk) School Board.”

Hewitt says she isn’t fazed by the challenge of becoming the principal at a new school during a pandemic, explaining that she’s faced down giants before as an administrator — most recently when she was assigned to James Elementary in Tampa.

Well-known as an under-performing school, under her leadership as principal James Elementary went from an “F” to a “C” after two years.

“My experience at James (Elementary) made me a better human being — a better administrator, a better mother, a better wife, a better sister,” Hewitt said. “I had to get outside myself. The students there live in poverty and called for a different level of compassion.”

Hewitt, a Tampa native, said that for as long as she can remember she wanted to be a teacher. As the only girl in a family with four children, she said she used to play school in the bathroom. “I drank warm water and pretended it was coffee,” she laughed. “I would write my name and different facts on the wallpaper and then deny to my parents that I had done it.”

She is a graduate of Tuskegee University in Alabama and the University of South Florida in Tampa. She said much of her career has been spent in magnet schools and that she feels Bethune Academy was the natural next step.

She and her husband, Weston, live in Auburndale with their two sons. It was the agreed upon halfway point for the couple, since he works in Orlando and, at the time, she worked in Tampa.

“My commute now to Bethune is 20 minutes from my house,” she said. “I’ve never just driven 20 minutes to work – it has always been hours.”

Sixteen of the 22 years Hewitt has been in education have been spent as an administrator and all of them in Hillsborough County.

“I got into administration because I wanted to make an impact on a larger scale,” she said. “As the principal, I ensure good teaching is happening in every one of my classrooms.”

Hewitt replaces long-time Bethune principal Sharon Knowles, who retired June 30.

“Sharon did a wonderful job of creating a legacy here at Bethune and I want us to build new traditions on that,” she said.

She introduced herself to parents by phone and Zoom and, although she hasn’t been able to meet community members yet, she certainly plans to. She also has undertaken what she refers to as a “listening tour.”

“I’m looking forward to going out in the community to meet our business partners,” Hewitt said. “I want the community to get to know me and I want to get to know the community.”

Hewitt also looks forward to the first day of school and said that she’s excited.

“Every time I walk through the doors of the school, I have a smile on my face,” she said. “I am humbled to be Bethune’s new principal. I can’t wait to turn up the heat and have a fantastic year.”