Into the principal’s office… (part 2)

No, you’re not in trouble.

The North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District recently hired several new administrators, and we wanted to help you get to know them. So we asked these new principals and assistant principals a few questions about their background and plans for their first year on the job.

This week, we’re spotlighting the new administrators for schools in North St. Paul and Maplewood. Look for responses from the new administrators at Oakdale schools in next week’s Review.

Meet Tracy Buhl, principal at Oakdale Elementary School

Tracy Buhl earned her K-12 principal’s license from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
She has bachelor’s degree in elementary education and teaching license for grades 1-6 from North Central University, and a master’s in education from Minnesota State University in Mankato. She served as an administrative intern for St. Paul Public Schools as the administrator in charge of the Linwood Monroe Arts Plus lower K-3 campus since 2012.

Q & A with Tracy Buhl

What prompted you to enter the education field?
I am not sure if there was any one thing that really prompted me to enter the field of education. I do remember that I have always loved school as well as being around young children. I also spent many days pretending to play school and always loved playing the part of the teacher when I was a child. At the age of 12, I began babysitting in our neighborhood and I found joy in spending time with children. From that point forward, I spent many weekends and summers all the way through college playing with other people’s kiddos. As an educator, working with children is such a rewarding experience because you get to create, problem-solve, give back to the community and inspire. Spending time in schools is what energizes me and keeps me young!

What drew you to Oakdale Elementary School?
When I was hired in the district, there were three openings, and I had an opportunity to visit all three schools. It was a great experience, but I definitely had an unexpected, yet very special feeling that I was “home” when I walked through Oakdale Elementary. I was really drawn to the warm staff and student reception during my visit to the school. I am coming from St. Paul Public Schools where there is a lot of diversity, and I have found that Oakdale is a wonderfully diverse community and school. I am truly privileged, humbled and honored to be named the principal of Oakdale Elementary School.

What do you hope to accomplish during your first year as principal?
I am definitely a data driven leader and have high expectations for all. I also believe in the “human” factor.
One of the bullet points under our vision statement for Oakdale Elementary School states, “Our community of students, families and staff will thrive in a welcoming, safe and caring environment where all members are valued.”  I truly believe that statement is the basis for creating a successful school.
One of my goals during this first year at Oakdale Elementary is to build trusting relationships with students, staff, parents and the community. It is my belief that every stakeholder should feel important and valued. I aspire to build a solid connection with all those involved in the education and development of our students here at Oakdale Elementary School.

What do you feel will be your biggest challenge during your first year in your new role?
I would consider my expertise to be in the areas of literacy and instruction, so I do not proclaim to be a “numbers” girl. Understanding the budget and all of the specificity that goes into creating and following a budget could be a bit of a challenge for me. I am confident in saying that I am a quick learner and I am up for the task, so bring it on!

Who was your favorite teacher or principal during your own school years and why?
I had a few teachers that were instrumental in impacting my life during my school years, but I will stick to just one, in order to keep this relatively short.
In sixth grade, I was in a self-contained elementary classroom with Ms. Otting. She was an older Irish woman, and it was evident through her words and actions that she cared for each one of us in her class as well as those in the greater school community.
I was always a pretty good student, but I really struggled when it came to test taking. I remember that Ms. Otting would always tell us, if we worked hard and tried our best, she would be proud of us no matter what the outcome was.
I can’t say that I remember much of what Ms. Otting taught or what I learned that year (although she did teach us a lot of fun and unique vocabulary words) but I did know in my heart, that I could be confident, because I had someone in my corner rooting for me to be successful.
She was definitely a special teacher and has been someone who has inspired me in the field of education.

Meet Travis Barringer, principal at Skyview Elementary School

Travis Barringer has served as principal at River Crest Elementary in Hudson, Wis., since 2010. He earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Concordia College in Moorhead, master’s in educational leadership from Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, and administrative licensure from St. Mary’s University in Minneapolis.

Q & A with Travis Barringer

What prompted you to enter the education field?
I have a passion for our public education system. My father was trained as a teacher. My parents helped to instill a love of learning and a respect for education in my brother and I. While growing up in Red Wing, Minn., I learned to love working with children and felt education was a place where I could help make a positive impact in the lives of others.

What drew you to Skyview Elementary School?
I was drawn to Skyview for a number of reasons. One reason was the excellent reputation of the building’s teacher leaders. Another reason was the multi-age configuration of the building with the houses and the middle school. A third reason was the opportunity to engage an increasingly diverse student body and their families in quality instruction.

What do you hope to accomplish during your first year as principal?
My number one goal this year is to build effective relationships with the students, families, and staff. This will allow me to support the learning at a high level.

What do you feel will be your biggest challenge during your first year in your new role?
Any time you move schools or districts, there’s a challenge to learn the existing systems. One example of my learning curve for this particular system is to learn the language. By that I mean that while acronyms are not new to any education system -- each one is a little bit different. I’m sure ISD 622 is no different.

Who was your favorite teacher or principal during your own school years and why?
My favorite teacher -- and the one I learned the most from -- was Mr. Tom Case. Mr. Case was my cooperating teacher during my student teaching experience at Probstfield Elementary in Moorhead, Minn. Mr. Case demonstrated an amazing ability to connect with his students. It showed me why building strong, effective relationships is a strong factor in helping students be successful.

Meet Joe Slavin, principal at Skyview Middle School

Joe Slavin is already a familiar face in District 622, where he has served as supervisor of educational programs since 2009. Slavin earned his superintendent education administration certification and K-12 principal education administration certification from St. Mary’s University in Minneapolis. He earned his master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Winona State University.

Q & A with Joe Slavin

What prompted you to enter the education field?
At an early age, I had been drawn to working with young people and felt that I had a set of skills that would suit me well as a classroom teacher.

What drew you to Skyview Middle School?
There were many things that drew me to Skyview Middle School, the biggest being the Skyview community. I had the privilege of teaching at Skyview for many years, so the opportunity to come back to the school that had such a big influence on my professional career is truly a blessing.

What do you hope to accomplish during your first year as principal?
My first year at Skyview Middle School is all about building relationships and establishing rapport with students, parents and staff. Skyview Middle School is a fantastic school with a strong history. I want to make sure that I do everything that I can to support students, parents and staff in continuing that great work.
What do you feel will be your biggest challenge during your first year in your new role?
Getting accustomed to working with middle school aged students. The majority of my school-based working experience has been at the elementary school level. So, I am totally at home working with kindergarten students through fifth grade students in the myriad of issues or problems that they may have on any given day.
My middle school student experience was way back in my past, so a big part of my learning will be in how to best help middle school students work through their issues, problems, etc. Fortunately, my oldest daughter is starting middle school this year, and I anticipate that there will be a lot of lessons learned at home that will definitely help in my growth and development.

Who was your favorite teacher or principal during your own school years and why?
Unfortunately, I don’t have a teacher or principal that jumps right to mind. I was fortunate to have had so many wonderful teachers and adults who supported me when I was in school that my experience was less about a single individual and more about the support of an entire school.  

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