Into the principal’s office…

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 Kevin Wolff, principal at Maplewood Middle School

Kevin Wolff, formerly the assistant principal at Highland Park Senior High School in St. Paul, obtained his administrative licensure from St. Mary’s University and his earned his master’s of education degree in business and marketing from the University of Minnesota. He attended Marquette University for his undergraduate schooling, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing and international business.

Q& A with Kevin Wolff

What prompted you to enter the education field?
After starting my professional career in the private sector, it was apparent very early that I lacked passion for the work that I was doing and needed something different.  My mother, father, sister and brother were all in education at the time and I knew how much I enjoyed working with kids, so I returned to school to get my masters and license to teach and coach.  I used my previous experience in marketing to teach business classes, run the DECA Marketing program and coordinate the Academy of Finance. I had found my passion! 

What drew you to Maplewood Middle School?
After spending fifteen great years working in Saint Paul Public Schools, I knew it was going to take the right fit for me to leave the district.  What first attracted me to District 622 is the tremendous support for principals provided by district administration and the passion they had for closing the achievement gap for all students.  
Superintendent Patty Phillips and Assistant Superintendent Troy Miller’s passion for creating a school and district culture that is enjoyable and valuable for staff, families and students certainly resonates with my values and belief system.  After talking numerous times with outgoing principal Marnie Galvin, it was obvious how passionate the staff is for the students and community of Maplewood Middle School.  I am excited to build on the past successes and traditions and start our way down a path that takes Maplewood Middle to great places!

What do you hope to accomplish during your first year as principal?
It is quite simple…I hope to help create a shared vision and culture for Maplewood Middle where all students are fully engaged and excited to be in school, parents are involved at high levels, and staff love coming to work.  Of course, student learning and achievement is at the core of how we will center our work.
I believe that in order to accomplish this vision a great deal of work has to be done around developing relationships, making connections for students, AND setting up systems and structures that allow students and staff to achieve at high levels. Whether it be deepening the work and collaboration around effective and engaging instruction, developing a consistent and holistic behavior management system that all stakeholders buy into, or improving the way we celebrate our successes, we are obligated to prepare our students well for high school and beyond.

What do you feel will be your biggest challenge during your first year in your new role?
As with any new relationship, building trust takes time.  I know that ‘going slow to go fast’ will play into our work at Maplewood and it will be a process in terms of gaining the trust needed from all stakeholders.  However, I also recognize that we only have our students for one, two or three years, and that preparing our students for high school and beyond is what families expect from us. This sense of urgency will drive our work, but balancing it with the important dynamic of process and trust building will demand that we are on top of our game at the very beginning of the school year.  We owe it to the students to do things the right way.

Who was your favorite teacher or principal during your own school years and why?
Diana Swanson, fifth grade. Mrs. Swanson had an unbelievable knack for making each kid feel like they brought value to the class and made sure that we were all challenged every day.  She brought an energy and passion that was contagious and she seemed to develop a unique relationship with each one of her students.  I have convinced myself she must have been a really, really good teacher because I still liked a lot her despite not getting away with any goofing around.

Meet Angela LaBounty, assistant principal at Maplewood Middle School

Angela LaBounty will be another new face at Maplewood Middle School, coming from Riverside Central Elementary School in Rochester, Minn., where she served as assistant principal. LaBounty received her administrative licensure and staff development certification from the University of Minnesota, her master’s of education degree from St. Mary’s University in Minneapolis, and her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

Q & A with Angela LaBounty

What prompted you to enter the education field?
I decided to enter education because I love working with kids. Moving into administration stemmed more from my desire to help all kinds of learners develop their potential beyond what they ever dreamed they were capable of. I went into my junior year of high school believing that I was going to be an astrophysicist and then entered college with orthopedic surgery in mind. Who knows? I still might get to one of those someday. The best thing about being an educator is that I am never done learning myself. As I continue to grow, I can open more doors for students, staff and families. The ultimate goal is that I help every student develop both their character and their academics to productively contribute in their community and have all the tools they need to be successful on whatever path they choose.

What drew you to Maplewood Middle School? 
I am joining ISD 622 after graduating from and working twelve years in the Rochester Public Schools. I loved my work, yet it was time to explore a new challenge so I could keep growing as an educator. Most of my previous experiences have been at the elementary level. The transition from elementary school to middle school is so important for students and families, and I was eager to find an opportunity where I could be a part of such a significant time in students’ lives. The focus of each conversation I had – whether with District leadership or Maplewood staff – aligned so tightly with my own core values and sense of purpose as an educator. It was clear that the things that drive me to be better and work harder are the same things that are driving ISD 622. I can’t wait to meet our students and families and get started!

What do you hope to accomplish during your first year as assistant principal?
I will measure success by my ability to develop strong, positive, and trusting relationships with each member of our school community as well as create systems that yield academic growth and acceleration for our students. I have confidence in every single student at Maplewood to learn at high levels, and my job is to do whatever it takes to engage, motivate, and celebrate our students to guarantee that learning. Whether a student, staff, parent, or neighbor, we each play an important role in that collective success. I am eager to build on the work that has been done at Maplewood and pave the way for great things yet to come. I hope to inspire a sense of value and belonging – and in those partnerships, we can work collaboratively to minimize disruptions in the classroom and more intentionally focus on high levels of learning for every student, in every subject, every day.

What do you feel will be your biggest challenge during your first year in your new role?
I like to feel connected with others, and part of that connection is simply knowing who everyone is! Coming from outside the district, I have a lot of work to do to learn the names of students, families, and colleagues so that I can build positive relationships with our school community. I’m the type of person who wanted to have it all figured out yesterday! But as I reflect on my own experiences, the most rewarding moments were those that were grounded in trust, collaboration, and hard work. As we keep our laser-like focus on what is best for our students, understanding each other’s needs – and how to best meet those needs – becomes part of the investment we make in each other. We’ll need to rely on and support each other to turn that vision of high levels of student achievement into our reality. 

Who was your favorite teacher or principal during your own school years and why?
My favorite teacher was Mrs. Healless. She was my fifth grade teacher and I loved her more than anything. She wore dark red lipstick and always had red nails to match. Beyond her appearance, though, she was the first person who really challenged me and got me to think deeply about my work, make connections, and – most importantly – dream big! She reminded me that if I wanted something, I needed to go out and get it. Through hard work, practice, and perseverance, she believed that I could do anything – and that helped me develop my own drive and confidence about what I could accomplish. I hope to instill that same strength of character and motivation in our students and staff at Maplewood.

Meet Pangjua Xiong, principal at Weaver Elementary School

Pangjua Xiong, who has worked for St. Paul Public Schools since 2002, most recently as the Supervisor in Office of Multilingual Learning, obtained her master’s of education degree in teaching English as a second language from the University of Minnesota. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and criminal justice from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn.

Q & A with Pangjua Xiong

What prompted you to enter the education field?
I spent a year teaching English to students in China (Jilin University in Changchun, China) and felt so alive with the interaction and with seeing the learning that was happening among my students. There was an unexplainable feeling that brought a smile to my face every time I saw my students and each time I was able to adjust my curriculum to meet their learning needs. This feeling stuck with me upon returning from China, which led me into the education field.

What drew you to Weaver Elementary School? 
It was just as much a draw into ISD 622 as it was to Weaver Elementary School. I was intrigued by the supportive nature of the district towards the schools. I was also impressed with the way in which the students and teachers at Weaver Elementary showed so much compassion towards one another during the times I visited. It felt positive!

What do you hope to accomplish during your first year as principal?
First thing I will focus on is to get to know the students, families and staff. I also hope to continue the great teamwork at Weaver Elementary and become an active participant in the community of learners already developing at Weaver.

What do you feel will be your biggest challenge during your first year in your new role?
I imagine I will encounter many types of challenges. One professional challenge will be learning to be an effective principal while also learning about a different school district and community. One personal challenge will be to learn about each and every student because I want students to feel happy, safe and ready to engage in learning when they are at school.

Who was your favorite teacher or principal during your own school years and why?
I’ve had many wonderful teachers throughout my education from Mrs. Swanson in second grade to Mr. Singer and Mrs. Dumas in high school. I continue to encounter amazing teachers throughout my own learning journey. Every teacher had a different impact on me but they all seemed to share one common quality; they believed in me and expected me to achieve my highest potential.

Meet Jaysen Anderson, assistant principal at North High School

Jaysen Anderson isn’t new to District 622 — he has served as the Dean of Students at John Glenn Middle School in Maplewood since 2012. Anderson earned his educational administration certificate and master’s degree in educational leadership from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, his bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and is currently working toward completion of his doctorate in educational leadership at Bethel University.

Q & A with Jaysen Anderson

What prompted you to enter the education field?
Ever since I was a young child I had wanted to be a teacher. There were several teachers in my family, including my grandfather that I was named after. I loved teaching, but a few years ago I felt the need to expand my influence outside the classroom to a larger perspective.

What drew you to North High School? 
I started in this district at John Glenn Middle School, so I began to meet people at North and began to understand what it was about. I liked the team, and felt drawn to the student population. I have always worked at schools with diverse populations, and North feels like a good home.

What do you hope to accomplish during your first year as assistant principal?
There are a lot of things to learn in your first year on the job. So I plan on doing a lot of learning and a lot of listening. There are objectives to work towards with students and teachers, and I hope to aid the student experience at North.

What do you feel will be your biggest challenge during your first year in your new role?
This is my first year working in a school the size of North. So I’m sure the biggest challenge will be remembering names, and understanding the complexities of such a large organization. 

Who was your favorite teacher or principal during your own school years and why?
My favorite teacher in high school was a history teacher that I had during my junior year. He was demanding and tough; but I greatly enjoyed the challenge. He loved his subject, and he never let students, myself included, settle.

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