Janesville54.7°

Whitewater business owner takes school reins for day

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Kayla Bunge
February 18, 2010
— Vicki Fiedler sat in a blue plastic chair meant for a small child.

First-graders filed past her to hang their nametags on a rack at the back of the classroom. Some of the tags—fashioned from green construction paper attached to a small hanger—were decorated with several colorful beads. Others had only a few beads.


Fiedler asked the students what the beads represented.


“You get them for being good,” one little boy said.


“You get them for being quiet and not saying ‘You’re not my friend,” one little girl said. “I never say those mean words.”


Fiedler smiled.


“Good job,” she told a boy who had received five beads and was halfway to earning a small prize.


Fiedler, owner of the Greenhouse Café in Whitewater, was observing at Lakeview Elementary School on Tuesday as part of the new Principal for a Day program in the Whitewater School District.


Superintendent Suzanne Zentner said the district invited local leaders to shadow a principal at one of the five schools in the district to expose them to the successes and challenges faced by school administrators.


“The intent is to share the inner workings and what happens in the course of a school day,” she said. “I’m so proud of these buildings and these people, and I wanted to invite people to see them.”


Zentner said many communities appreciate the work of teachers but understand little about the responsibilities of administrators.


Fiedler, a mother of four, said she thought she might be able to learn something and see schools from a different perspective.


“I am a business owner, and I am a parent. When you look at things from those viewpoints, you compare,” she said. “I thought it would be interesting to see (the school) from the flipside.”


Fiedler already had an appreciation for the work of educators, but she witnessed firsthand the responsibility schools face to educate and care for children.


Before any of the students arrived at school, Mary Beal, interim principal and school psychologist, led Fiedler around the small building on Richmond-Whitewater Townline Road near Whitewater Lake. She explained that the “country school” with fewer than 200 students is the smallest elementary school in the district.


As classes got under way, Beal took Fiedler into first-, second- and third-grade classrooms to show her teaching styles, learning methods and classroom structures. She saw pairs of students listening to an audio book. She saw single students working on spelling words. She saw small groups of students getting help from the teacher.


After making the rounds, Beal and Fiedler sat in the principal’s office to regroup.


Beal said she hoped Fiedler and the other community leaders participating in the Principal for a Day program learned how schools are working to prepare children for the future.


“Today’s schools look different than when we were in school,” she said. “Kids are learning so much faster, so much sooner. It’s amazing how bright they are and what we expect of them. We’re giving kids the skills they will need for jobs that don’t even exist yet.”


Beal said that means educators must not only be adaptable but also learn with the students.


Fiedler said she was impressed and humbled by what she saw in only a few hours. She said principals and teachers have to love their work because it affects hundreds of children every day.


“The dilemmas they face and the decisions they have to make are long-lasting,” she said. “They touch every single student that comes in that door.”



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