Grove City Record

Four first-year principals aren't new to district

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Four South-Western City School principals are beginning their first year in their new positions, but they aren't new to the district.

Stephanie Baker, the new principal at Highland Park Elementary School, has worked in the district for several years, including as a literacy teacher and most recently the math and science curriculum coordinator.

"I'm really excited about having the opportunity to serve as principal at Highland Park," Baker said.

She earned an undergraduate degree in psychology, but began thinking about a career in education after working in a summer program at the Columbus School for Girls.

"I found I really liked working with students and I felt like I could make more of a difference in a classroom" than as a psychologist.

"I began to realize that being an educator was the path I needed to be on," Baker said.

The reward in education is helping students succeed, she said.

"When I was working with students on their reading, and some of them were struggling, there would be the 'a-ha moment' when it clicked in for them," Baker said. "Then you couldn't stop them. It was almost a magical moment."

Jessica Cahill, who is Stiles Elementary School's new principal, has been with the district for 13 years, including most recently a stint as math coach at the school.

"I know what great teachers and students we have here at Stiles," she said. "It makes me even more excited and passionate about becoming the principal.

"Our big goal at Stiles has been and continues to be creating a positive and challenging learning environment for kids," Cahill said.

Katherine Nowak is the new principal at Hayes Intermediate School. She previously served as assistant principal at Jackson Middle School.

"I'm so excited to be coming to work with such a great staff at Hayes and continuing the tradition," she said.

Nowak has spent her career in the South-Western district, starting out as an eighth-grade science teacher at Finland Middle School.

Teaching intermediate and middle school-aged students can be inspirational, she said.

"They are so enthusiastic about learning and all the possibilities that are coming to them," Nowak said.

At the same time, teachers and administrators can often provide support to students as they maneuver into adolescence, she said.

Her own interest in teaching was inspired in part by one of her fifth grade teachers, Nowak said.

"She made learning fun and exciting and she made it seem like something I would want to do," she said. "I thought it would be rewarding to help students succeed in the classroom."

Andy Stotz is the new principal at Franklin Woods Intermediate. He spent the last three years serving as the school's assistant principal.

"It makes it a lot easier having been here rather than starting fresh," he said. "I'm excited to be able to continue to serve the students. We have a lot of work that needs to be done and needs to be finished."

The most satisfying part of being an educator, "is watching or seeing our kids achieve our goals and their goals," Stotz said. "We have so many students from different backgrounds at our school. I enjoy being part of our effort to help them have success in school."

Stotz said one of his high school teachers inspired him to become a teacher.

"She taught me about building positive relationships and mentored me through some difficult times in my life," he said. "She had high academic expectations for her students so I worked hard for her. And she recognized some leadership qualities in me and helped guide me.

"I wanted to go into teaching so I could also be a positive role model for students," Stotz said.

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