Alaska Association of Elementary School Principals
It is incredible how fast September flew by. So many of you completed Title I meetings, fall sports are wrapping up, and the leaves have definitely taken a different shade. These are the good things you want to remember.
Many of you have had struggles. Some have had difficult staff and students. Some have had facility issues. Western Alaska, our thoughts and prayers are with you as you clean up from the devastation of the typhoon that hit you this month. Your work and your struggles are real. Just remember, this is a yearlong marathon and not a spring. Look at every issue and challenge as your next success. Make sure as you continue to serve your school, students, and staff, that you make time for yourself.
I look forward to meeting you at the Principals' Conference in a few weeks. Have a great October!
Principal, Wendler Middle School
Q: What is your current role?
A: I am currently the Principal at Wendler Middle School in Anchorage, Alaska. Positions I have worked in the past as an educator in the Anchorage School District include: Title I Tutor at Clark Middle School, Family School Service Coordinator at Denali & Ursa Minor Elementary School, Reading Teacher at Denali Elementary, Teacher at Fairview Elementary, Assistant Principal at North Star and Mountain View Elementary, Principal at North Star Elementary, and Director, Elementary Division. I have served as an administrator for 15 years in the Anchorage School District.
Q: Why did you decide to become a principal?
A: I decided to become an administrator pretty much for the same reasons that I chose to get into education, and that was to affect the largest number of kids that I could in a positive way. Moving into administration seemed to be that next progression for me in my career path.
Some very impactful people who pushed me along this journey were Jim Kurka, a past principal of Huffman Elementary School, who always encouraged me to seek my teaching degree when I was a substitute teacher for our district. Other individuals who had a great impact on me moving into the role of an administrator was Karen Riggs and Glen Nielsen. I appreciate them every day for seeing something in me that I didn't even see in myself.
Q: What is your definition of a successful school?
A: A successful school to me is one that is set up for all to be successful and included. A successful school starts with an environment where everyone feels safe and welcome once they set foot on campus. Students in a successful school are all respected and accepted for their unique selves.
The school doesn't try to fit students into a one-size-fits-all system or box, and adapts the achievement bar for each student based on where they are currently at academically, behaviorally, and social & emotionally. All students have an equitable chance for success based on a supported MTSS system.
Staff in a successful school feel listened to, supported, prepared, and empowered to make decisions that help shape the lives of all the students they work with. Staff and school teams are making school-based decisions (behavioral or instructional) based on data. Parents are welcomed into the school and encouraged to be stakeholders in their child(ren)'s education, and are also involved in all aspects of the school.
Community members and school-business partners are invested in supporting the school's community by knowing the goals set for the district by the school board and knowing the needs of the school.
Q: What advice would you give those just entering or becoming interested in entering the field of school administration?
A: This is the part where I say laugh and say get ready for the ride. I remember my first year as an administrator was very stressful. I remember riding home one day after school and really questioning myself if I had made the right career decision. Whenever I have tough moments like that, I always think about and decision that I make being the best decision for kids. I can always live with that, and I can live with the fact that those decisions to not always make everyone happy if it's going to be the best decision for kids.
Professional Development Opportunities
We are excited to see you all at the Alaska PreK-12 Principals’ Conference October 14th and 15th, which is less than two weeks away! If you have not yet registered, you still have time and can do so HERE. Make sure your membership is up to date this year to get the membership rate and to qualify for extra perks during the conference. We will be offering one credit through UAA if you attend the full conference. Information regarding credit will be available at the registration booth.
Remember that if you have PD needs at your school that you think we may be able to help with, please reach out! We are happy to do some research for you, look at grant opportunities, and/or try to set something up that will help.
Mark your calendars! We are excited to see you at our All Member Meeting which will be held on Saturday, October 14th at 10:30 at the Anchorage Hilton. Please plan to join us for important AAESP updates, learn about our plans for the upcoming year, and share how we can best support your work in schools!
October is National Principals Month—a special opportunity to celebrate school leaders! Every year, NAESP, the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) join together to thank school leaders, elevate and amplify their voices, and support them as they lead learning communities. It’s a special time to celebrate our nation’s principals for their tireless dedication to their students and the schools they serve.
National Principals Month represents an opportunity to acknowledge and support the important work of principals. These school leaders fight every day to give their students the best education and we owe it to them to advocate on their behalf. This is why our focus this year for National Principals Month is on Principal Wellness. We believe that it’s time for school leaders to prioritize their health and wellness, and we’re here to help with opportunities to connect, reset, and learn with their peers in education leadership.