School Principal Appreciation Day is on May 1st, which fell on a weekend this year so THIS week is THE week to celebrate them along with our wonderful teachers!

The 2020-21 School Year started off like none other before it. There were so many unknowns for parents, students, administrators, and teachers. Our family made the decision to send our oldest daughter back to the classroom in September, but we certainly had some hesitation and opened every email with trepidation during the first semester. What kept me sane was knowing that her school had thoroughly planned for the safety and well-being of their students and teachers. At the heart of it, the people that work in our schools do it for the love of those students and teachers and I appreciate that. As this school year draws to a close, I reached out to my daughter’s principal and a few other local principals to hear how the year treated them and how they view appreciation on this School Principal Appreciation Day.

“Nothing about this school year was “normal”. There was no precedent for anything that we were doing. We built the plane while flying it.” Tiffany Phelps, Principal Barton Creek Elementary, shared of her experience planning for the 2020 school year. And as a leader and mom, Jennifer Dusek, Principal Valley View Elementary found that “supporting others through so much uncertainty, fear and pain; while maintaining my own health and well-being too”, was a challenge. But plan, build and support they did. Carol Johnson, Secondary Principal Brentwood Christian School, worked to resolve the challenge of “ensuring that students on campus and in Bears Online had time to spend with friends as they learned in their cohort classrooms”, which can be so critical for middle and high school students.

All have been in the field for over 20 years but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t be surprised by what they found this year. “Teachers are rock stars! They have been asked to do things without training, pivoted with little to no notice, and been forced to adapt to the unimaginable….all with a smile on their face and a can do attitude” Phelps said of her staff.

Said another way, “I always believed it, but this year PROVED that educators will and can doing anything to support, protect and teach children” noted Dusek. Any middle school or high school parent can tell you that these years are tough emotionally as it is, add in a pandemic and who know what you’re going to get. But Carol Johnson saw a softer side this year, “Teachers and students have supported and showed love for each other all year, and this is why they were able to make it successfully through the school year.”

As this national day of recognition approached, School Principal Appreciation Day, I wondered what would make them feel appreciated from their students, the community, or their peers. Appreciation looks like “when I see smiles, hear laughter all over campus. When people seek me out for support and tell me that what I do/have done made a positive impact on children or an adult” for Dusek. As for Johnson, “[She] feels appreciated when the Brentwood community comes together to celebrate our students, whether academically, athletically, or spiritually.  Brentwood is a community who loves spending time together. I feel appreciated when parents, students, teachers, administrators can come together, relax and have positive conversations. This year has been hard because we have not been able to get together and bond. My prayer is that we can come together as a community soon.”

And for Phelps, her appreciation comes with 3 simple words we should all consider in our lives, “Grace.  Understanding that we are in this together and share a common goal for their children. We are all imperfect people, that learn and grow daily. Trust. We know that parents are leaving us their treasures and we don’t take that responsibility lightly. I feel appreciated when they trust that I have the best interest of their children at the forefront of my mind. Gratitude. A simple positive email keeps us going. Watching the students grow and knowing you were just a tiny piece of that fills my bucket. Elementary is such a fun level because you’re with the kids for 6 of their foundational years.”

One thing they are all a looking forward to is a return to “normal” for the 2021-22 school year. Phelps’ normal comes with bringing the school back together instead of keeping their distance, “I can’t wait to have all of the kids back in the building! We have not “gathered” all year. I love building a school community and you do so through common events, celebrations, and assemblies. Not being able to do that and sharing these memories with our students and their families has been really tough,” said Phelps. I know my daughter is a fan of Johnson’s view on a return to normal, “I’m looking forward to getting rid of cohorts and allowing students to change classes, have lockers, and have passing periods. Students need the five minute passing periods to take a breather, walk in the hallways, and unwind between classes.”

I bet we are all thinking we could use some time to unwind in our day too! With just a few short weeks left in the school year, our principals have certainly made the most of a tumultuous year. We appreciate all you do for the love of the job and our kids!

Rachel Montgomery
Born in New Hampshire and raised in Florida, Rachel got to Texas as quickly as she could. She has spent the last 20 years in this amazing city as a student, wife, mother, friend and professional. She met her husband, Jonathan, here in Austin and the two share all things Longhorns, as well as a love of football, traveling, and being amateur foodies. When not carpooling the social butterfly, Claire, or watching the world through the eyes of a toddler, Diana, you can find Rachel researching, planning, and booking their next travel adventure. She is an unapologetic Patriots fan and a firm believer in self-care; eat clean, train dirty, and never under estimate the power of a fresh mani/pedi.


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