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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.


Principal Profile: All About Helene M. Dykes


Your school:
Tijeras Creek Elementary School, a K-5 school in Rancho Santa Margarita, California (750 students)

Number of years in that position:
six years

What is the biggest challenge you face this school year?
This school opened last year with 575 students. We now have 750 students, and that number is projected to go up next year to 850. That enrollment increase is definitely the biggest challenge.

What is your education motto?
Be the head learner in a professional learning community.

What is an unforgivable trait in a colleague?
I have a hard time with passive-aggressive people. I like to get differences in opinions out in the open.

Who or what most influenced your decision to become an educator?
My aunt influenced me greatly. She was a science coordinator and used to bring me teacher editions and free samples when I was a kid. I loved playing school!

What do you do to relieve stress?
I do crossword puzzles, swim, take baths, and play with my grandchildren.

What are the most important qualities of a strong school leader?
Enthusiasm, commitment, and a sense of humor.

If you could have a different career, what would that be?
People tell me I would have been a great lawyer.

What have you been reading lately?
The Parallel Curriculum: A Design to Develop High Potential and Challenge High-Ability Learners, edited by Carol Ann Tomlinson.

If you're having a good day at work, what makes it good?
I'm out of the office -- I'm in classrooms and around kids. Whenever I can work with kids or have a great problem-solving collaborative session with teachers about curriculum, I know I will have a great day. Another thing that makes a great day is observing great teaching.