Providence Creek Academy Assistant Principal Susan Thomas has seen it all in terms of working in education. She started out as a bus driver and 25 years later her career has included time spent working as a paraprofessional, interventionist, and teaching. Now Thomas can add the title of assistant principal.
Thomas recently took a few minutes with the Sun-Times to talk about what she enjoys about working in education and what it's like being the first assistant principal at Providence Creek Academy.
Q Why did you decide to work in education?
A My kids. We've always had kids around. Even before I had my own children we were always getting involved in schools and everything. I love working with kids.
Q What do you like about working in education?
A I like to see when the kids finally get something; when they finally get the concept and the light bulb goes off, it's like "Yes." I guess one of the great perks is when they [the students] come back and remember you and thank you. I've gone to weddings, baby showers, graduations; that's the good part of it. The best part of education is when they recognize you later on.
Q Why did you apply to PCA?
A It's a charter [school] so it something different. They have a different philosophy; one that seems to match my very well. They think outside of the box a lot of times. A lot of schools have to teach this way and that way, and it's consistent. Here they try all kinds of things to make sure the students understand the best way they can and I like that. It's about the kids, not saying that Appoquinimink wasn't about the kids, but it just fits well at this time in my life.
Q How's it going so far?
A Really good. Really, really good I was very nervous at first because I didn't know anybody or anything. Since then I've gotten to know lots of the staff and kids are beginning to run up from the bus to give me hugs. Parents dropping off their children at the office are getting to know me so it's nice. I'm in the classrooms all the time so kids really know me from that way.
Q What's it like being the first assistant principal the school has had?
A Cool, it feels really…it's neat like I'm setting the groundwork. I'm doing the groundwork here. I do enjoy it a lot. This is like a family atmosphere because you watch the kids from kindergarten through eighth grade. It's not just the eighth grader; it's not just an elementary school. You have the best of both worlds getting to see them all the way through.
Q What are some of the challenges?
A It's hard coming in to a position where staff members aren't used to having an assistant principal. It's like I'm figuring out what my job will be. It has been a learning experience that's been different because they're not used to having me around.
Q What characteristics should an assistant principal have?
A They should definitely be a good listener, try to be a problem solver and definitely a leader who doesn't start sweating under pressure. They should be somebody who loves working with kids because if you're just here to be here you don't need to be here because it's all about the kids, for the kids, by the kids and because of the kids. You definitely have to be be flexible because you never know what the day is going to bring; just when you think you're going to go to that meeting something will change it.
Q Have you started any new programs here since you started?
A Yes, we've started the Positive Behavior Support program. PBS is a statewide program that [Providence Creek Academy] never had before. The staff has been very supportive and are all about rewarding kids for good behaviors.
It's a wonderful thing that we do about once a month where we reward them with something. They get tickets for bringing back homework and random stuff like they brought their folders back with tests signed by the parents. We also look for other things. One day a student dropped all her stuff when getting off the bus and it went everywhere. One little kid – while everybody else walked past and were stepping on things - one little kid helped pick everything up; that deserved a ticket. That's what we want, we want kids to be positive towards one another without having to be told to do so.
Q How have the kids responded?
A They love it, love it, love it. We're starting a school store so some tickets can go to school supplies like pencils and things like that. Most of the rewards we're looking at things where one month the reward is in-house and the next month we'll go somewhere.
Email Jennifer Dailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.