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As the newest member of his U.S. Marines unit at Camp Smith in Hawaii more than 20 years ago, David Naylor was assigned to the adopt-a-school program.

With two younger sisters who were always trying to get him in trouble – that’s how he remembers it, anyway – a teaching career was the last thing on this young Marine’s mind.

All it took, though, was one day tutoring two fourth-grade students in math, and Naylor had found a new purpose in life.

Now, his improbable journey has brought him to Model Laboratory Elementary School, on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University, where this educator of 13 years will serve as principal.

“What excites me most about this opportunity is the ability to look at education outside the traditional methods you see in schools across the nation,” Naylor said. “It is the ability to think outside the box and then have the ability to implement that plan. I’m also excited to have the opportunity to have an impact beyond Model’s walls with future teachers attending EKU.

“Model is special because of the strong family feel I have received already,” he continued. “Also, I’m inspired by speaking with (new Model superintendent) John Williamson and Dr. (David) McFaddin (EKU vice president for engagement, regional stewardship and government relations) about their vision to have Model be at the forefront of education in Kentucky and the nation. Lastly, I’m excited about the opportunity to work with the College of Education on innovation within our profession. Model is truly a special place, and I am blessed to be a part of it.”

For the past six years, Naylor has served as an assistant principal in Florida: from 2012 to 2015 at Poinciana Academy of Fine Arts in Kissimmee and then at St. Cloud Elementary School the past three years. He had previously taught kindergarten, first, second and third grades and served as an assistant coach for various school teams.

“Prior experience as an elementary teacher and administrator were top attributes that were important to our parents and staff, and David has both,” said Williamson. “We are elated to have someone with school leadership and military service join our administrative team.”

Naylor earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from South Florida University.

“The Model Lab community can expect to have someone who is passionate about giving back to a profession which provided me as a child who grew up with many challenges and the opportunity to be whatever I could dream to be,” Naylor said. “I will work tirelessly to make sure we are the pillar of innovation to provide all students a pathway to success. I plan for Model to be the shining jewel of the education community in the Commonwealth and nation.”

And it all goes back to his days serving his country as a proud Marine.

“You could say that if it was not for the Marines, I may never had seen my path as an educator,” Naylor said. “I feel the Marines taught me how to be a reflective leader. Making decisions is easy, but determining if the decision you made was effective or has the impact you want is harder. I watched my leaders bounce ideas off others before making their plan, and then discuss with them what went well, what failed, and how it could be more efficient. Observing that process set the example for me in the leadership roles I have had since then.”

Naylor’s wife, Nicole, grew up in Anderson County, and they have four-year-old twins.

“I think it is important to wake up in the morning and be excited about going to work, and that is how I feel every morning,” Naylor said. “There are so many important jobs out there, but being an educator has such a huge impact in a child’s life.”

Established more than a century ago on the Eastern campus, Model Laboratory School educates 725 students from pre-K through 12th grade while providing field experiences for EKU students and demonstrating evidence-based strategies. Laura Dedic serves as director of the secondary level (grades 6-12).