UNION CITY, Ohio — Stephanie Klingshirn’s dedication to education has spanned 23 years, with 17 years of experience as an elementary principal at schools in Piqua City and at Mississinawa Valley, near here.
As president of the Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators (OAESA) for 2016-17, she represents more than 1,600 elementary and middle-level school administrators both in Ohio and nationally.
The Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators serves Ohio’s pre-K, elementary and middle level school administrators, as well as central office administrators who have an interest in pre-K through grade 8 education. OAESA’s purpose and mission is to bring about a more complete understanding of the objectives of elementary and middle level school administrators; to promote professional growth, status, and welfare of elementary and middle level administrators, to cooperate with organizations who share mutual interests in promoting the cause of quality education and services; and to work for the continuous improvement of Ohio’s elementary and middle level schools.
In her educational career, Klingshirn taught kindergarten, first, and second grades, as well as other grades for intervention, extracurricular activities, and summer school.
“For the past 17 years, I have been in administration,” she said. “I have served as principal at Fort Loramie Elementary, Springcreek Primary in Piqua City, and most recently [nine years ago] at Mississinawa Valley Elementary in Union City.”
She went on, “I believe I’ve been in education in some way, shape, or form all of my life. I’m not sure exactly who or what inspired me to go into education. I just somehow knew in second grade this was my path. I have two aunts who were teachers, so I’m sure they were an important influence in my decision. I began playing piano and teaching the music in Sunday school when I was 11. I have always gravitated toward working with children, and what better way to work with them than to learn with and from them.”
She said there are many people who motivate and inspire her.
“But, I believe my biggest motivators are my daughters. I know what I want for them, and I want nothing less for all of the students in my school than I want for my girls. Beyond that, great teachers and principals motivate me to be better. There is nothing more exciting to me than talking shop and networking with great thinkers. Attending conferences at OAESA, OILA, and NAESP and hearing educators, such as Dr. Anthony Muhammad, Baruti Kafale, Todd Whitaker and Dr. Russell Quaglia, also reminds me how I can be—and need to do—better.”
Her biggest challenge as an administrator, she said, is keeping the focus on the important things, instead of reacting to the urgent things.
“This is a daily challenge,” she said. “Physically writing down the three to five most important things to accomplish before I get to school helps. I am continuing to learn how to delegate. This year, I am determined to track my daily goals differently in order to keep the main things the main things.”
As president of the OAESA, she will lead board meetings throughout the year, help lead and participate on service teams, attend zone meetings, give feedback to the OAESA staff, serve on the SAIL board, and represent the organization whenever asked.
On the board for eight years now, she was asked her favorite memories of OAESA.
“Gosh! There are many,” she said. “Quite a few of the people I’ve met—many I now consider friends—are at the top of my highlight reel. Beyond that, having the opportunity to attend the NAESP Leadership Conference and advocate for Ohio principals with national politicians is absolutely one of my favorite moments. Being more involved in OAESA has given me a much clearer understanding of what an organization like this does and how it’s not only working to support principals but, more importantly, kids, which has been awesome.”
She explained the OAESA Board’s goals for 2016-17.
“We are a membership organization,” she said. “It is the lifeblood of what we do. As such, it is critical that we remain member driven and member led. That, and increasing our membership so we have a stronger collective voice, will always be important goals for us. Connecting with our members, and helping them connect and network with each other is a vital goal in sustaining principals, and we are always working on better ways to do that. One of our advocacy goals is focused on streamlining or eliminating the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) this year; another is to advocate for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to be implemented the way the law intended it to be. The professional learning service team is always looking for ways to support administrators in a more relevant and timely way through the use of technology. Getting more administrators involved and also contributing to our magazine, the Navigator, and continuing to improve how we recognize outstanding administrators are tops on our list as well.”
She was asked when being interviewed for the magazine, how she gets her staff excited about opening day.
She responded, “It’s different every year, but I usually start with a theme of some sort that applies to both students and staff. I sometimes deliver a book to their house (Christmas in July.) We have a staff retreat two to three weeks before school that focuses on our goals for the year and helps set the expectations. This year we are going to have some ‘forced fun’ that includes Twitter, self es, and a scavenger hunt!. Teachers have started a fun tradition of how they welcome new staff to our school as well.”
She also told of the back-to-school practices she employs at school for the students.
“Typically, we send personalized letters out to all students from their teachers as well as from me,” Klingshirn said. “We try to start the first day of school differently each year. One year, we had a DJ playing and a dance party as students entered. This year, teachers will be visiting as many students’ homes as possible, especially focusing on those in our toughest neighborhoods. They will be delivering juggling balls to the students and our annual letter with instructions to bring [the balls] with them the first week of school. I also visit each classroom and read a book, talk about expectations, and help students create a piece of a school-wide art mural. This year’s book is going to be Beautiful Hands. Finally, PBIS expectations are explicitly taught and interwoven with all of our activities.”