NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – They call her the heartbeat of A.C. Corcoran Elementary School.

Despite her own challenges, Assistant Principal Karen Lee’s hard work, dedication, and love for her students never wavered, it intensified. That is part of what makes her our first Cool School Assistant Principal of the week.

Assistant Principal Karen Lee takes pride in her work at A.C. Corcoran Elementary, a role she’s had for 12 years now. “I love it at A.C. Corcoran. It’s my home away from home. It’s like another family,” Lee says.

Lee started her career in education 31 years ago as a special education teacher.

“I wanted to become an educator because I always felt like I wanted to help people out. I do have a sister — she has a disability, and just living with her and growing up with her, I always felt like they needed to be someone to be a cheerleader, and to be an advocate for children with disabilities. So that’s what started me, I also have a sister who is a special-ed teacher as well.”

During her busy day, she helps with car and bus duty, meets with staff and parents, observes classrooms, and helps students.  

A.C. Corcoran has a diverse population of 750 students.  “Our teachers and staff work really hard to make sure that we are meeting our children where they are, and pushing them, holding them to high expectations to move them,” she said.

The Stage 3B colon cancer survivor worked through a part of her treatment. She now hopes to inspire students and colleagues to never give up.

“I was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2017. That was a hard difficult fight. It was the fight of my life. I want to share with our students, and even our faculty- they were behind me the whole time- we don’t ever give up. The chips may be down, we may be having a hard time, but no matter what, we don’t give up. We just keep fighting the good fight, and look at things from a positive aspect, and just know that things are going to be ok,” said Lee. 

“She’s definitely the heart of A.C. Corcoran, the heartbeat. When you think about what she does for this community and faculty and staff, she’s always behind the scenes working to make sure everyone is taken care of, meeting the needs of our kids, our families, teachers, and loving on them. Her personality is amazing. She supports us in everything we do. I’m so glad to work with her and have her as my right hand,” Principal Johnathon Wideman said.

Lee says being a consistent and strong instructional leader allows her to support teachers and students and help them make daily progress.  

She says she finds joy in supporting faculty and staff to help make their challenging jobs a little easier. “Our school is a great school. We’re working very hard. It’s a tough challenging job. We have teachers here that are working very hard. They stay late. They come in on the weekend.”

Reading Interventionist Meg Balcer nominated Mrs. Lee for the Cool School Assistant Principal award.  She says, “Mrs. Lee exudes the positivity our school needs to help us keep going. She’s one of the hardest-working vice principals I’ve ever worked for. She pushes us with positivity and high expectations that she holds for herself, and it just helps us all do our best at A.C. Corcoran.”

To students like Aniya McGill, Mrs. Lee is family. She says, “I like that she’s a kindhearted assistant principal.  I basically see her as a second mama.  I’ve known her for a long time. She’s like a mama to me. She helps me through stuff. When I’m sad, she’s the one that’s there for me. That’s somebody you can trust, somebody you can count on, and if you’re going through something, she’s just there.”

“I do feel like I’m making a difference. I love it here. It’s a calling.  It’s my passion,” said Lee. “When I am at school each day, even if it’s just one student, that I am able to make a difference, and that’s what I want. I want our children, our faculty, and the administration team to feel like when they come to school to work, it’s not a job, it’s a calling. It’s something we do. We’re going to make a difference.”

If you would like to nominate a Cool School, educator, or principal, send an email to Octavia Mitchell at