All Blog Posts

From Learner to Leader: The Journey of Furman Alumnus, Matthew Critell, in School Leadership

Last updated April 11, 2024

By Robert Mullikin

In the hallways of Bethel Elementary, Matthew Critell strides with purpose, his commitment to education recognizable in every interaction. But how did he arrive at this pivotal role as principal? On the Go Further podcast, Critell answers this question and tells his journey. It’s a story deeply rooted in a legacy of service and nurtured by the transformative experience at Furman University’s M.A.Ed. School Leadership program.

Bethel Elementary School Principal and Furman University M.A.Ed. in School Leadership alumnus, Matthew Critell.

For Critell, education isn’t just a profession; it’s a familial calling. Inspired by a lineage of educators, he set his sights early on not just on teaching, but on the broader canvas of school leadership. His journey was unconventional; unlike many who started as teachers and worked toward a principalship, Critell had a strong desire to become a principal from the beginning.    

Reflecting on his decision, Critell speaks fondly of his time in the classroom, acknowledging the profound impact of direct student interaction. He felt drawn to a role that would amplify his influence, allowing him to touch the lives of both students and teachers on a grander scale.

Drawn by its stellar reputation and word-of-mouth recommendations, Critell found himself immersed in Furman University’s M.A.Ed. School Leadership program, tailored to mold aspiring leaders in education. Here, he wasn’t just taught leadership; he was enlightened to thrive in any educational environment and equipped with the tools to navigate the complexities of school administration.

One pivotal realization emerged from his time at Furman: effective leadership transcends environments. It’s about fostering connections, embracing diverse perspectives, and, above all, understanding the profound impact of one’s actions.

Critell’s journey through Furman’s program wasn’t without challenges. Dr. Terry’s rigorous law classes tested not just his knowledge but his collaborative skills. Yet, it was precisely these challenges that honed his abilities, preparing him for the multifaceted demands of school leadership.

Matthew Critell at Bethel Elementary.

Upon assuming leadership roles, Critell seamlessly integrated Furman’s principles into his approach. Humility and trust, he asserts, form the foundation of effective leadership—a sentiment echoed by his mentor, Dr. Heath. By leading with authenticity and prioritizing honesty, Critell cultivates an environment conducive to growth and innovation. Challenges loom large in the educational landscape, with shortages exacerbated by a crisis of trust. Nevertheless, Critell remains steadfast in his commitment to fostering honesty and transparency, recognizing their pivotal role in building enduring relationships.

As he looks back on his journey, Critell imparts invaluable advice to aspiring leaders: embrace authenticity, stay true to your values and never underestimate the power of trust. For him, Furman wasn’t just an educational institution; it was a vessel of transformation that shaped not just his career, but his worldview.

At Bethel Elementary, Matthew Critell’s journey stands as a testament to the transformative power of education. From learner to leader, his story is inspiring for educators everywhere, a reminder that the path to leadership is paved with humility, integrity and an unwavering commitment to service.

If school leadership and inspiring the next generation are your professional goals, consider applying to Furman University’s M.A.Ed. in School Leadership. For more information on the program and Matthew Critell’s journey to becoming a principal, listen to the “Go Further” podcast episode, “Matthew Critell – School Leadership (M.A.Ed).”