There will be a new face at New Albany Middle School when students return to school Aug. 30, and his personal goal is to know every student's name by the end of October.

There will be a new face at New Albany Middle School when students return to school Aug. 30, and his personal goal is to know every student's name by the end of October.

"One of my biggest goals is to get to know the students and the community and to familiarize myself with all the wonderful things that are happening in the community and the school and to become an active participant in that," said Steve Gehlert, the school's new assistant principal.

Gehlert, 32, was hired in July and his official start date was Aug. 1. However, principal Andy Culp said Gehlert spent the month of July working at the school.

"He's learning as much as anything," Culp said. "He's got a sound background and he understands instruction and the importance of community collaboration. But any time you're new to an organization it takes a while to learn - even everybody's names."

Gehlert said he began his career teaching in a middle school. He is leaving Dublin City Schools, where he taught high school Spanish and was assistant dean of schools. He said he is excited work with middle school students again.

"I love this age group - they're fun," Gehlert said. "They just have a lot of energy."

Gehlert said middle school can be tough for some children and he is interested in helping them make the transition into high school.

In the last few weeks, Gehlert has spent time with the middle school staff and prepared himself to help accomplish the school's goals. Staff members are reading Carol Ann Tomlinson's "The Differentiated School: Making Revolutionary Changes in Teaching and Learning," and they are working to implement changes that will help children learn.

Culp said one of the book's themes is that all students can be successful.

"One of a teacher's single biggest challenges is to walk through the door of a classroom every day and deal with individual kids who have a variety of aptitudes and skill sets and vary their instruction for all students," Culp said.

Gehlert said one of the things that attracted him to the New Albany-Plain Local School District was the shift in thinking about ways children learn.

"Here, it's not that all kids can learn, it's all kids will learn," he said.

For example, Culp said, every student is evaluated at the beginning of each year in math and reading. If a child was not performing up to his or her grade level, he or she would attend regular math and reading classes as well as an intervention class to build skills and help "close the achievement gap."

"The idea is to provide directional instruction in math and reading so the student no longer needs intervention," Culp said.

Culp said the school's goals have been created after first evaluating last year's performance.

"There are a lot of things we do well, but there's always room for improvement," he said.

This year, the middle school staff teachers will incorporate "21st century skills," which involves teaching students to think globally. Instead of being assigned a problem and solving it, Culp said, students must identify problems and design innovative solutions. Culp said the goal is to prepare students for a global economy and a global marketplace.

"Service learning certainly is a part of that, being something that's bigger than yourself," he said.

Collaboration and learning to work in small groups are also important, he said.

The school also will continue to improve assessments and rubrics in an effort to continue raising the level of student performance. A final piece is to help implement the districtwide strategic plans, recently reviewed by the school board, Culp said.