How did you become the principal of Burton Street Elementary School?
I spent 17 years as a middle school teacher before becoming a special education and reading teacher. My next step was to become a special education director before becoming a principal. Soon after, I was appointed as K-8 principal and K-12 special education director at Stockbridge Valley. I then began my 16 years as the Burton Street Elementary principal in Cazenovia. I’ve spent a total of 39 years as an educator!
How are you encouraging students and staff during COVID-19?
We are providing online instruction with a lot of communication for families. Classroom teachers hold class meetings two to three
times a week, along with videotaping instruction on Padlet and other platforms. Our special area and interventionists send additional ideas with activities for families. We are providing breakfast and lunch five days a week, with delivery for those who do not have transportation. Our mental health team continues to reach out to families that may be struggling. We send pertinent information home to families for support. Our staff continues to reach out to families that we have had little or no communication from to see if they need support with learning or food. Each week we try to improve on what we are doing.
What mark do you hope to leave on the school?
It is my hope we continue with our Character Education program. It is one of the things I am most proud of. We focus on five traits throughout the year. We hold assemblies once a month that each grade level is responsible for. In those assemblies, we recognize students for showing the character traits. To teach and introduce the new character trait we are focusing on, we do skits and read books. Throughout the month, there are activities connected to the trait. Our whole building is really involved with our character education program. We have an overlying theme throughout the year of being kind and if you make someone smile today!
What advice can you give new principals?
Give yourself a year before you change anything. Take the first year to get to know your staff and community culture. Get in the classroom to know your students and to make connections. Be visible! Listen to everyone, which does not mean you need to agree.
Realize you do not know everything, and you have some very smart people on your staff and use their knowledge when making decisions and change. When you are ready, make thoughtful decisions that support students and staff. Always put student needs first. And love what you do. It will show!