Perspective: Micah Lambert, Mary Feeser
When people find out that I am an elementary school principal, they often say to me, “I could never do what you do!” This statement is usually followed by the question, “Do you enjoy what you do?” I enthusiastically respond, “Yes! I love it!!” Every day I look forward to going to work. As a first year principal, I put a lot of pressure on myself to ensure all aspects of our school continually strive to serve students to the best degree possible. At the end of each day, I leave knowing that there is more work to be done and that I must continually prioritize what I do. I make sure that I intentionally visit every classroom every day; this takes precedence over nearly everything else on my agenda. I need to be physically present on a regular basis to gain a realistic view of what is happening in individual classrooms and get a feel for the overall pulse of our school. I have learned through my experience as an assistant principal that it is important to allow people’s strengths to shine in order to constantly help move the school forward. I want to foster an environment where people trust each other, work well together, and feel valued as team players, resulting in positive morale of the staff and students. This leads to a school where people want to work and kids want to go. Ultimately kids learn at a higher level and enjoy school, and test scores can organically improve.
I can imagine that being a principal could become an overwhelming job if I were ever to lose sight of why I originally felt drawn to a career in education: my desire to help kids succeed. I have always enjoyed kids and chose Elementary Education as my major before I started my freshman year of college. Unlike many of my peers, I never changed my major! I went on to earn my masters degree in special education after discovering my passion for teaching students with different abilities and needs in my classroom. I don’t ever want to forget that I was a teacher first and the practical lessons I learned in my classroom; being a lifelong educator is one of the most important characteristics of being a good principal. Now when I get to interact with all types of students and witness teachers encourage, challenge and inspire them, it keeps me motivated to do my job well. I am continually observing and learning from students, as well as my colleagues–both teachers and other administrators. Making decisions with teacher and student perspectives in mind is something I strive to do each and every day.
In any elementary school, the staff knows that they will have challenging tasks with each new set of diverse students. Starting with the youngest learning their ABCs and 123s, each grade level is vitally important in preparing for the next until students finally transition to middle school. Of course, effective academic instruction is only part of the overall challenge; affirming, encouraging, and actively helping kids with social, emotional and physical needs is often just as important as implementing lesson plans. At the end of each year, we hope that we made a positive difference in their lives, usually not knowing what the future holds for our students. Several years ago I was privileged to get a rare glimpse. I received invitations from several of my former students to attend their high school graduation ceremony and individual open houses. I gladly made the three hour drive back to Plainfield, Indiana to attend the festivities. At the graduation ceremony, it was thrilling to see my former students walk across the stage to accept their diplomas. Afterward, during dinner with some of their families, these students told me in their own words that I had been their favorite and most influential teacher. Needless to say, I was humbled and taken back because I taught these students in 4th and 5th grade–they had encountered many more teachers over the years! As I drove home reflecting on the day’s events, it reinforced my purpose for pursuing education as my profession: to help students and make a valuable lasting impression on their lives.
I am so excited to be serving as a principal in Elkhart Community Schools. I am eager to oversee changes that are in place to help our students become more successful, and I am very pleased to work with a group of great people in our school and community as a whole: teachers, students, paraprofessionals, custodians, cafeteria workers, parents, volunteers… and the list goes on. My journey to becoming a principal has taken me to many different schools. I look back at everything I learned from each of them, and I am grateful for the knowledge and experience. If I ever lose the zeal I have now for leading my current school, it will be time for me to take steps to retire! I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
-Micah Lambert, Principal, Mary Feeser Elementary School