Just prior to the first day of school, meet Idaho's newest principals
As tens of thousands of Treasure Valley families prepare to begin a new school year, there’s also much that is new for Idaho’s newest principals.
Trevor McKenna has served Boise students since 2008, as a teacher and assistant principal. And this year, he’s got the top job at Riverglen Junior High.
“I think every year there's a little bit of nervous energy because I remember what it was like being a student and being so excited for the first day,” said McKenna. “And so I think it's important to remember what it was like to be a student.”
For Eva Meyerhoeffer, another new principal, there’s even more discovery. After spending the past three decades working in the Jerome School District, she has moved to Boise where she’s the new principal at Mountain View Elementary.
“I get a first moment all over again. You know, it's taken me 31 years and I'm excited to meet a whole new community,” said Meyerhoeffer. “I knew all the students and parents in my last district, and I get that chance again.”
With just a couple of days before the beginning of a new school year in Boise, McKenna and Meyerhoeffer visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice.
Read the full transcript below:
TREVOR MCKENNA: Well, you know, I would say in my case, because I'm a new principal, there's a little bit of nervous energy. But I think every year there's a little bit of nervous energy because I remember what it was like being a student and being so excited for the first day. And so I think it's important to remember what it was like to be a student, and it needs to be a special day for the kids. And so my focus is making sure that the staff in my building has the time and the resources to be able to prepare for and plan for what they need to do. And that's positively impact kids when they walk in the door.
EVA MEYERHOEFFER: I would agree Exactly. And I look forward to having those new positive first-time connections with students and their parents especially. I'm going to be making them feel at ease the best I can. While inside I am like trembling, but at the same time I get to have my first time. I get a first moment all over again. You know, it's taken me 31 years and I'm excited to meet a whole new community. I knew all the students and parents in my last district, and I get that chance again, so I'm pretty excited. I'm excited to see how the how how the teachers see me react with their students as well.
GEORGE PRENTICE: Can I assume that you clear your schedule on that day?
MCKENNA: Yes, sir. My schedule is clear that day. And I think, you know, you bring up a good point there. You know, it's that first impression as students and families are walking in the door. And for me, that started because we had our orientation day. And so I intentionally put myself at the welcoming table to give out student schedules because you get that first chance to make that first impression and you forget sometimes what it's like to be new to a school where you're so nervous. And so to get that warm smile and that welcome to the school. We're happy you're here. Is something I think that lingers with families. And, you know, so I think the process of building relationships with students and families is really building up on that first day is the beginning of your journey in building that relationship.
MEYERHOEFFER: I think it's the first week or the first three days. We are all hands on deck. And so, I'm just looking forward just to being present and me being so new. I don't know what to anticipate. So, I'm not so I'm just going to be present in the moment and just and just be there.
PRENTICE: I want to talk about being an educator in general and a principal in particular in the 21st century… in 2023. And there are things that you learned in school and things that you have learned and honed over your years of experience. That said, the world is the world, and the world sometimes has not necessarily done the right thing by kids. The instances of increased bullying. The instances of suicide ideation. And then violence in in or near our schools. This is a very different time. Can you talk about the challenges that are in front of you…that you never would have considered?
MCKENNA: Yeah. I think at the end of the day, whether it's 20 years ago or August 16th, on the first day of school, the bottom line is this is a relationship business and there's a lot of stuff. You know, I always tell kids when we're talking through things, let's focus on what we can control. And there's a lot of things that in life that we can't control. But the one thing that we can control is how we treat and interact with other people and. I think that that is the foundation and that's the model that we're trying to. Display for our students. And sometimes, you know, that can get lost in all the other stuff that we have to worry about. But ultimately, I think it's modeling positive relationships with students and families and providing that space for them to develop those skills so that they can take that outside of our schools and play that, pay that forward within the communities that we that we live.
MEYERHOEFFER: Yes, I think making them feel safe and that and being aware that they all communicate differently, whether it be verbally or what have you. So, I think my biggest challenge I feel as an elementary principal is not only to make our students feel safe, but also our parents feel safe because I can't do this alone. I need them on. I need them as my team. And so a lot of that is the communication… the transparency, being clear with what our vision is, what our expectations are. And I just think practicing those expectations and protocols and just keep doing it, I mean, providing consistency, structure, but mostly just a lot of communication.
MCKENNA: Yeah, I agree with that. That's important. And I think it's important that parents and students both know what's going on at the school. And, you know, as you mentioned, that communication piece is important. And then I also think it's important that they feel connected to the school, right? Whether it's the students feeling like that's their safe place, you know, that's where they can be and feel valued and feel safe and they can grow and develop and take risks in a safe setting. And then for parents, too, you know, I'm a parent of students in the district, and I want to feel connected to the school that my kids go to, and I think most parents and families do. And so I think providing them opportunities to be in our schools and to see what we do and to see that firsthand, I'm going to tell you, we're going to show you and you can do that in a lot. You can do that at school. You can do that in after-school activities so that that presence is important and valuable for our communities.
MEYERHOEFFER: And parents are sharing their children with us. And we take that seriously. I mean, we know that we are a part of their child's life. And so, we do everything we can to let those students know that we are your other family away from home.
MCKENNA: Yeah, it's funny you say that. I was actually on the phone today with a parent because they were not able to be at orientation and they're asking. “Can I come at another time and walk through the school?” And my message to parents and students is, “This is your school. You can be here whenever you want. You just let me know to make sure that you can get in the buildings and that somebody's here. But yeah, this is your school. I'm helping facilitate it. But the school belongs to you.”.
Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren
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