Q & A with new Belview Elementary principal
CHRISTIANSBURG — Belview Elementary School will enter the 2013-14 school year with a new principal for the first time in more than seven years.
In July, Tara Grant stepped into the position formerly held by Rhonda Baker, who is now the supervisor of literacy programs and preschool for Montgomery County Public Schools.
Grant comes from a family of educators, including her mother, Linda Edwards, who is the principal at Pulaski Elementary School, and her grandmother, Sibyle Ferrele, who taught for many years for Radford City Schools.
Grant began her teaching career at Christiansburg Elementary School, where she taught for five-and-a-half years before moving into a position as an instructional technology resource teacher for Montgomery County Public Schools in December 2006.
As an ITRT, Grant traveled between three to four schools at a time, ranging from elementary to high school levels, to help integrate 21st-century technology into the classroom.
Belview was among the schools Grant spent time working in, which she said allowed her the opportunity to develop a fondness for the school and its community.
Grant said she is looking forward to incorporating the book “The 7 Habits for Happy Kids” by Sean Covey in the students’ daily lives and hopes to use it as a tool to bond the school and the community.
“It’s promoting habits to live a positive life, like, make a plan, plan ahead, listen before speaking, thinking win-win, work together. … If we can somehow incorporate and instill all these wonderful habits, maybe it will carry over to home and it will carry over to life, and maybe they’ll talk to their parents and families about that. That’s my big initiative this year: to pull the faculty and the students and the families together.”
Grant has spent the past two years as an assistant principal at Falling Branch Elementary School in Christiansburg.
Her first official day as Belview principal was July 15.
Q: What attracted you to Belview?
A: “Belview is awesome. I was here for three years so I knew that the people here are so sweet and dedicated to the kids and the community. I love the size of the school. There’s about 300 kids, there’s 14 classrooms. … Coming from Falling Branch, there are 550 kids, there’s twice as many classrooms, which I love. I loved everything about working there, but I thought, if I’m going to be on my own, this is a great place to be. … I knew a lot of the people here, I already had relationships, and there’s already a lot of wonderful things going on here.”
Q: What are your keys to success in public education in today’s world?
A: “To keep the kids in mind at the very top of the priority list. With that being said, you have to remember that some of the kids that come here every day, school is the only place they receive the attention and love they deserve as little guys. So, that is a very huge pressure as an administrator and a teacher. We might be the only consistency that they have in their life, not everybody, but some, so really nurturing the whole child along with the academics and passing the SOLs.
“Mainly, the key to success is building relationships with kids, and that’s also the key to teacher success with the kids. The kids have to know they’re [teachers] going to be there for you every day, whether you mess up or not. The teachers have to give praise as often as they can, and so do I. … You have to meet them where they are and kind of build them up.”
Q: What experiences or lessons do you think you can carry over from your role as an assistant principal?
A: “Everything. I think I’ll just build on it. I had a wonderful mentor, Julie Vanidestine, at Falling Branch. She really, really helped me out by giving me half of the responsibilities from the first day.
“I would just say the last two years, I would take every day as an experience to build on. Kids are at different levels behaviorally, academically. Everybody has a different family situation. Finding out the history of the child has a lot to do with how you deal with the child.”
Q: How do you think having worked at the middle and high school level can benefit you as the principal of an elementary school?
A: “I see where they’re going. I know what’s expected, behavior and academic. I’m a big fan of promoting school spirit, too, and loyalty to a place, so watching at like CMS … how important it is for kids to have that tie to their school and their community. … Some of the kids are transient here, but they’re still within Montgomery County. I plan on doing C2G here, the Commit to Graduate program. At Falling Branch, I kind of spearheaded the C2G initiative where we would bring in Christiansburg High School athletes and members of the community, Radford University athletes, Virginia Tech athletes. … Just promoting that school spirit and how special that is, … really working within the strand to build loyalty and school spirit and set goals, and it all plays in there together.”
Q: What’s you personal philosophy as to the principal’s role in school discipline?
A: “High expectations for all kids. Now that’s hard for some, certain days, and not everybody’s in the same place. But high expectations. I expect them to come to school every day on time and be respectful and try their very best, and if they mess up, I want to talk to them about it. Tomorrow’s a new opportunity. But anytime I talk to a student is a new opportunity for them.
“Anytime a kid has a behavior problem, there’s a reason. So if I have that relationship with that kid, he’ll talk to me about it eventually.”
Q: How would you like Belview students to view the principal’s office?
A: “As a place to come to show all the good things that you’re doing. I want them to share with me, the good and the bad, because I am on their side. I am an advocate for kids. I want to know all my kids’ first and last names by the first week.”
Q: What are you most excited about with your new job?
A: “Everything. The opportunity to put my ideas in motion. I think I have a lot to offer — a lot of energy, a lot of positivity, I’m very positive. I say, ‘Why not?’ a lot. You know, ‘We can’t do this. Why not? We’ll figure it out.’ I like to figure it out. If it’s something that’s going to work or be good for kids, I want to figure that out.”
About Tara Grant
Family: Husband, Mike Grant; three children: Jake, 17, Haley, 15, Thomas, 7
Education: A James Madison University graduate; holds master’s degrees in teaching curriculum and instruction, as well as education leadership, from Radford University.
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