An avid marathon runner, William Myers has completed more than 50 of the 26.2-mile races. He has also run ultramarathons - 50- and 100-milers. But those might not be his toughest activities. During the workweek, he is surrounded by 1,700 teen-agers as principal of Severna Park High, one of the best schools in Anne Arundel County.
After five years as principal of Arundel High School, the long-time administrator and former social studies teacher feels he's starting over again, building relationships with students, staff members and local businesses.
"The hardest thing is having to transfer from school to school," Myers said. "You establish such strong ties with faculty and students. It's like family. You have to reestablish those ties and that's what I'm going to do here."
Forging those relationships might seem a daunting task, but Myers, 52, has his marathoner's determination and deep local roots.
Born in Baltimore, he moved to Anne Arundel County with his family in 1959. He graduated in 1967 from Northeast High School and returned there 22 years later as assistant principal.
It was during those years in high school that Myers realized teaching was the profession for him.
"I had some outstanding teachers, and I wanted to be like them," he said. "I went on to college to become a teacher so I could do for other children what those teachers did for me."
After studying education at Anne Arundel Community College, Myers transferred to Towson State College (now Towson University) where he earned a bachelor's degree in history in 1971. While in his first teaching assignment as a social studies teacher at MacArthur Junior High at Fort Meade, he earned a master of education degree in secondary education from Towson.
He was then an administrative trainee at Annapolis High School and was promoted to assistant principal at Old Mill High and later at Northeast High. In 1993, he became assistant principal at Meade Senior High School. Three years later he was promoted to principal at Arundel High.
"He has wonderful relationships with parents, students and staff," said Ken Nichols, director of instruction for Anne Arundel public schools, who was Myers' supervisor at Arundel High.
During his five years there, Myers built a reputation as a problem-solver and someone with creative ideas.
"He's always been called on as a member of any committee we've put together here in the district to try and look at new ideas and concepts," said Nichols.
At Severna Park, Myers has taken over as head of a school that long has been regarded by many as one of the best high schools in the county in terms of student performance.
Severna Park has had the highest SAT scores in the county for the past two years. Last year's seniors averaged 550 on the verbal portion of the college entrance exam and 578 on math out of a total of 800 for each section.
For several years, the school has had the highest percentage of seniors taking the exam - 87 percent in the last school year and 80 percent in the previous two years.
Myers said that from his vantage at other county schools, "we've always looked at Severna Park as a benchmark. There's some friendly competition."
Myers said a school improvement plan includes goals of improving SAT scores and other academic standards at Severna Park but that the emphasis is on "maintenance so we never lose ground."
Because the school building is 40 years old, Myers said, he will be looking at improvements, possibly a makeover.
He's also establishing an advisory board that will enable local businesses to work with students and staff members on projects. He said he hopes to bring businesspeople in for tutorial sessions with students and to find work the students can do for the businesses.
Myers is working hard to build bridges with students, from class leaders and athletes to all 440 freshmen.
During a visit to a freshman English class, Myers talked about how important it is for students and a principal to get to know each other, saying hello to each other in the hallways.
"I've come to adopt you as my family, and, hopefully, you'll adopt me as a part of yours," he said. "We live together a lot while we're here at Severna Park High School."
His calm voice became more animated as he asked them, "How many of you know what you want to be? How many know how to get to where you want to be?"
When a few students raised their hands, he continued, "You've got to have a goal. You've got to have something you want to do and then you've got to find out how to get there. As ninth-graders, you can take the first steps toward that goal."
He went on to point out some statistics: the number of high school freshmen in the United States (15 million); the number of days they will spend in high school (close to 800) and the number of chances they have to get it right (one).
"As a freshman in high school, you're at the beginning, you're at the beginning of the road to success," he said. "Four years of high school will flash by so quickly."
He told them that he is married, that his son and daughter graduated from Severna Park High School in the 1990s and that he has no pets. Then he issued a challenge to the students.
"You know something about me," Myers said, "and over the next four years, I'll get to know many of you. I'm going to say hi and smile at each of you in the hall. Then I want you to say hi, smile and tell me your name.
Myers said this year's school opening went very well, and that he continues to be impressed with the students and the staff. Running the school will no doubt present challenges, but having met professional challenges at five other schools and the personal challenges of dozens of marathons, he said, he's up to the job.
"I'd be crazy not to be thrilled," Myers said.