Ms. Mary Camerer
Ms. Mary Camerer 
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Principal's Corner

Washington School Principal's Vision

"Every child who leaves our school will have been academically challenged and will have the social and academic skills and abilities to make good choices in their lives."

A first grade student had made great progress in reading over the past few weeks so his Reading Recovery teacher gave him a book to keep honoring his hard work. He kept it in his reading folder at school. When his Reading Recovery teacher asked him why he did not take it home he replied with tears in his eyes, "This is the first book I have ever had of my own. I don't want it to get lost or ruined by taking it home."

Too often schools conclude that children who live in poverty should be pitied and need to be loved more than they need to be engaged in learning. People often refer to them as at-risk. In fact, some believe they are incapable of learning the rigorous standards represented by our state's essential academic learning requirements. Close to 65% of the 270 students at Washington Elementary School eat free or reduced lunch. We believe the best way to love our at-promise students is to give each child the academic and social skills and abilities they need to make good choices in their lives.

What is my role as principal in a school with this vision? I state our vision at least once each day at school to parents and within the community. I want everyone to know why we come to work each day. I am the lead cheerleader for the successes we share and guide our continuous improvement with data and research. At times, I have to remind myself, staff, and students that there is no excuse for students to not be successful. If we find a strategy that works, we do it more often. If something does not work we try harder and find an alternate solution.

I encourage and support teachers as they expend huge amounts of energy to plan and implement engaging, constructivist lessons focused on students' mastery of academics. As a professional learning community, they encourage and support each other. The staff at Washington understands that children will learn when we use assessment data to determine instruction for each child. We focus all of our resources on teaching and learning and find a way to provide the necessary tools for staff and students to attain academic success.

We believe in collaboration and professional growth as a way of life. I, as principal, participate in continuous learning and practice of research-based best instructional practices along side our teachers. If the administrator is not first and foremost a good teacher, how can he/she evaluate, support, and improve teaching in our building. If we do not spend our time in classrooms where the teaching and learning is occurring, how will we best serve our teachers and students?

Clearly, our focus is for all children to meet the standards, but this learning cannot occur if children do not feel safe and cared for at school. Our desire is for classrooms that are so engaging, that children want to be there. While we have a progressive discipline plan, our students lead unique, stress filled lives, and each is an individual. We have found that if we treat our students with respect, they will return the respect. We use a problem solving approach with children to change the behavior so that they do not return to the office for the same offense. Our children need attention. If we can give each one a connection, some positive attention, they do not require negative attention form misbehavior. Washington students are very aware though that we will not allow anyone, adult or child, to keep another from learning.

While I believe the vision and philosophical beliefs of a school are the foundation for success, I am most often asked, not about vision, but about what actions we take to live our vision and philosophy.

Trained teachers working to improve teaching and learning.

Uninterrupted blocks of time for the learning of mathematics and literacy, daily.

Frequent assessments used to inform instruction and decision making.

Writing across the curriculum.

Attention to common vocabulary.

No tolerance of students who keep others from learning.

Everyone engaged in learning, students and staff.

Classroom teachers who accept responsibility for each child in their classroom.

Grade level teachers planning and working together.

So what is it like to be a principal or teacher in a school where every child will learn the academic and social skills necessary to make choices in their lives? On any given day it can be thrilling, frightening, complex, frustrating, challenging, hectic, intense, or riotously funny. But, from my perspective, it is without a doubt, the most rewarding work I have ever engaged in, because I know we are making a difference for children who might not have opportunities in their lives without the education we are providing for them inside the classrooms of this focused and determined school.

Mary Camerer

Washington Principal


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