When I set out to be “Principal for a Day” at Northcrest Elementary School in early October, I thought it would be fun. I was excited to take part in an event Fort Wayne Community Schools holds every year to give the public a look inside their schools and the vital role principals play.
While it certainly was fun, it was also eye-opening.
I was able to see firsthand how many different hats a principal wears in a typical day.
I was assigned to Northcrest Elementary School where Lindsay Amstutz showed me the ropes. Check out what it’s like to be “Principal for a Day” through my eyes:
While in her office, Amstutz showed me a basket of gadgets that might come in handy on any given day.
“I’ve got my magic wand that I use to try and fix everything and make it better,” she says with a laugh.
You learn quickly that a sense of humor is required for the job.
“Being principal, you know you’re the face of the building,” she says as she greets kids getting off the school bus to start their day.
“Hi Lovie”, she says as a student hugs her getting off the bus. “How are you?”
“It’s important to be out front, in the back, and in the hallways, just to be that positive face that they see.”
Northcrest Elementary School is the second most diverse elementary school in the state of Indiana.
“A lot of our students are non-English speaking and come from different countries,” says Assistant Principal Jasmine Youngblutt. “But, everyone can communicate with a smile.”
“Buenos Dias,” says Amstutz as she greets another student eager to start her day.
“We have at least 20 different languages spoken at Northcrest,” she says. “We look at that as a blessing, but also a challenge.”
“It’s a challenge to teach students who have literally arrived in the United States a week ago. The bravery of them to come to school in a different environment where they don’t speak the language, but they learn how to acclimate within a week or two, is pretty cool to see.”
Youngblutt says a smile goes a long way when breaking the ice with new students just learning their way.
“Everyone knows that feeling of connection and warmth without having to speak a common language.”
“When kids walk through our doors, they are beaming at us most of the time, they are happy to be here.”
We dip in on a kindergarten class and observe an energetic bunch shout “It’s going be a fabulous day!”
“The most rewarding thing about being a principal is seeing kids achieve and doing things they didn’t think they could do.”
Amstutz smiles as we watch the teacher instill confidence in her class.
“Tell yourself, I can do it,” the teacher says.
The kids respond with overwhelming enthusiasm, “I can do it!”
Seeing things like this recharges the batteries for Amstutz and helps keep her focused.
“I always tell my office staff, our job is to make their job easier so they can teach. Anything we can take off their plate, that’s our goal and what we try to do.”
“I think Lindsay’s greatest strength is her culture building,” says Youngblutt.
“She has a knack for developing great ideas and finding fun ways to engage our staff, our students, and even the families.”
“People need to like where they work,” says Amstutz who is in her 12th year as an Elementary School Principal.
She spent eight years at Fairfield Elementary School and the past four at Northcrest.
“Kids need to like where they go to school because that increases motivation.”
“You have to be born with that passion,” says Instructional Coach Kelly Monasa. “It has to come from within.”
“Lindsay is an amazing leader. She knows her teachers and her staff and she also has high expectations.”
“Coming from a coaching and athletic background, you know you can’t do it by yourself,” says Amstutz. “It takes a team.”
Amstutz addresses a class and reinforces to them what it means to be a principal.
“I have two jobs,” she tells them. “One is to keep you safe, the other is to make sure that you’re learning.”
It’s a message she reinforces every day.
“They know when they come to school that they’re safe, that they’re loved, and that they’ve come to school to learn.”
“It’s so rewarding,” says Monasa. “I tell my husband that sometimes it’s hard to get up in the morning, but it’s never hard to come to work.”
Principal Amstutz nods her head in agreement. “We really, really take it to heart,” she says. “It’s more of a mission than a job.”
As I observed her interaction with every facet of the building, it was clear to see she loves her job and cares deeply about each person in the building.
“I love having community members come into the building to see what actually goes on.”
“We have amazing teachers,” she says with obvious pride. “Our kids are in such great hands.”
It’s easy to see why Principal Lindsay Amstutz is Positively Fort Wayne!