Each week, Education World profiles a different school principal. His or her responses offer insight into what it takes to be a principal, what a principal's day is like, and the special challenges a principal faces.
Avery Elementary School, a K-5 school in Webster Groves, Missouri (a St. Louis suburb), 415 students
How did you get your current job?
Nine years ago, I was second choice in this district. The next year, the superintendent invited me to apply for this opening.
What is the biggest challenge you face this school year?
The challenge is for us to keep the "drive" as we move toward higher expectations for kids and ourselves.
If you have one of those days when you don't think you can face the job again, what is it that gets you out the door and off to work then next morning?
I think about individual kids for whom we're making a difference right now.
What is an unforgivable trait in a colleague?
An unwillingness to grow and learn for the benefit of kids' learning.
What do you do to relieve stress?
I live in a very old house. Home improvement projects that require my physical or mental focus help me forget the stresses of school leadership.
What is the most important quality of a strong school leader?
The ability to hire and mentor exceptional teachers and the ability to find and allocate resources to maximize student achievement by meeting kids' needs.
If you could have a different career, what would that be?
I would be a full-time foster parent.
What have you learned recently?
Being able to be a principal is truly a gift to me. I know I'm doing something important and doing it very well. The longer I do it, the more I appreciate it. I've learned that this job doesn't have to consume your life and emotions to be done well -- if you surround yourself with excellent people. I'm tired of reading and hearing about poor, overworked, stressed-out principals. That discourages others from our profession and isn't an accurate whole picture of what this job is about.