Since it is the last day of National Principals Month, sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Association and Elementary School Principals, we wanted to highlight another great principal, Leslie Kelly. Leslie is a former principal of eSTEM Academy at Reynoldsburg High School, an EDWorks STEMLab school. She currently serves as the principal at Walnut Springs Middle School in Westerville, Ohio.
What originally drew you to work in education?
I had always tutored, taught swimming lessons, volunteered with special needs kids, etc. but I had never thought of becoming a teacher. I was a science major in college and took an intro to education at the suggestion of a professor. I remember standing in front of a seventh grade class to teach my very first science lesson and I was hooked. I knew education was where I was meant to be. It is such a privilege to be able to teach students and to know the knowledge you are giving or fostering will be with them forever.
What is the greatest challenge you face as a principal?
The greatest challenge I face is balancing the needs of all stakeholders. Students are the first and top priority, but you also need to make sure you are meeting the needs of your teachers, parents and community.
What are the keys to meeting the needs of diverse learners?
Relationships are key to meeting the needs of diverse learners. Getting to know your students beyond what they do in the classroom allows you to better understand their needs. Next, as the administrator, it is important that you and your staff have opportunities to engage in meaningful and purposeful professional development to learn strategies to improve student learning and community engagement.
How has EDWorks helped your students?
EDWorks was integral to the design, development and implementation of the Reynoldsburg eSTEM High School. For the two years prior to opening eSTEM, we worked hand in hand with EDWorks as we created our program from scratch. As a professional it was the most meaningful experience I have had to date. It was amazing to see the staff come together to create curriculum, portrait of a graduate, grading practices, student challenges, etc. that they all equally owned. Robin Kanaan said to me often, “trust the process”. She was right. EDWorks helped our students by guiding us through the design, development and implementation of a program that resulted in our students achieving the highest performance index in Reynoldsburg City School’s history and a parent survey that also had extraordinarily high marks. More importantly they helped us to create a true community amongst our teachers, students and families.
What is your favorite part of being a principal?
Watching students, teachers and parents grow. I heard a saying once, “The best we educational planners can do is to create the conditions for teachers and students to flourish and get out of their way.” I love this because this illustrates what I learned about being a principal while working with EDWorks. There is nothing more rewarding than watching someone learn or achieve something they did not think was possible. I will forever be grateful to EDWorks for helping me to become a true instructional leader.