Each week, Education World profiles a different school principal or assistant principal. His or her responses offer insight into what a school administrator's day is like and the special challenges school leaders face.
Harriet Gifford Elementary School, a K-6 school in Elgin, Illinois (555 students)
I was a classroom teacher -- grades 3 and 5 -- for seven years. I was an assistant principal for two years before being appointed a principal.
How did you get your current job?
I was selected after going through an interview process that included meeting with parents, teachers, and central office personnel.
What is the biggest challenge you face this school year?
The school district recently cut $40 million from the district budget, which has resulted in fewer staff and larger class sizes. Our challenge is to focus on improving student achievement with fewer resources.
Who most influenced your decision to become an educator?
Bill Lucas, my fourth grade teacher, has been the biggest influence on my career choice. Mr. Lucas was my first male teacher and I looked up to him. I still keep in touch with him.
What does your work contribute to society?
As educators, we challenge students to become responsible citizens. We also instill reading strategies that students can use throughout their lives.
What is the most important quality of a strong school leader?
A strong school leader must be able to assess the ever-changing needs of the school community and quickly respond to them.
What have you been reading lately?
I recently read Ruby Payne's book Understanding the Framework of Poverty.
How do you motivate your staff to go above-and-beyond?
I present data for the staff to analyze and challenge them to come up with ways to increase student achievement.
What motivates you?
Working in a building with a 60 percent low-income and ethnically diverse population presents some wonderful opportunities to impact the lives of our students and their families. For example, we have cultivated partnerships with a local bookstore and a church to provide monthly family activities for our students. Yes, there are also some challenges; we'll do whatever it takes to help our children.