The Stewart Family (5.9.2019)
I have told many of you that being a principal for Lakeshore was my ultimate goal. I never thought I would have the opportunity to achieve that goal until I was a few years from retirement, as Lakeshore is *the* desirable district. Everyone wants to work for Lakeshore, so I thought I would need 20-25 years of experience to even have the opportunity to be here.
A little over one year ago, I got a call from Sue Hardy to set up an interview for this position. I was sitting in a classroom at McCulloch Junior High School in Marion, Indiana, with an eighth grade teacher, discussing a RtI form for one of her students. My heart skipped a beat when I saw a 269 number, and I think I just about had a panic attack when Sue let me know she was calling on behalf of Lakeshore Public Schools. I could not contain my excitement on the phone with her. I am pretty sure I said something really silly when we were setting up my interview. When we got off the phone, I thought, "Oh boy! I just ruined that!"
When I arrived for my first interview, I was so nervous. I wanted this job so badly. I kept telling myself to be myself, to relax and to not get too excited. When I first walked into the conference room and saw many of you sitting around the table, I had a moment of pause. I was trying not to make it obvious that I was nervous, but whew... I was nervous. I felt like I wasn't the "typical" candidate. I was 30, I had a nose ring and tattoos. I was hoping that you all would be able to see what I had to offer.
As soon as we started talking, I felt at ease-- because of YOU. The interview seemed more like a conversation. We laughed, some tears were shed, and Julie P had to keep us on track with time. I feel like we began to build the new Stewart Family that day. I definitely felt connected to all of you in a way that I had never really felt before.
When I left the interview, I called my mom and said, "That was the perfect fit. That's the one." By no means did I feel like I had this job "in the bag", but I wanted it even more than anything. When I got the call for my second interview, I was ecstatic! When the position was offered to me, I cried like a baby!
My first interview was on May 10, 2018. Tomorrow marks exactly one year since the new Stewart Family began. I absolutely love being the Principal at Stewart Elementary, and the reason I love it is each of YOU. You all have always been supportive, caring, open, warm and accepting. You've been there through tough times and good times. You inspire me each day to improve, to gain knowledge and to become the best version of myself. The Stewart Family is truly my family. I feel connected to you in a way that words cannot describe.
Thank you for all you do each day. Thank you for making Stewart Elementary more than a building... you make it home. Please know you are appreciated, valued and loved. Happy Staff and Teacher Appreciation and Recognition Week!
The Stewart Sign (5.2.2019)
I didn't know where Stewart was located until I applied for this position. I knew where Hollywood was located, because my dad loves to try around the countryside aimlessly during the summer. He gathers fruit and vegetables from every stand he passes, I think. I knew Roosevelt was by the High School. As for Stewart? I had no idea. I had to Google it. :) When I pulled it up on the map, my mouth fell open. You all are beginning to learn of my love for the lake. I could not believe just how close Stewart was to Lake Michigan.
I had never actually been to Stewart until I came for my second interview. As I turned on to Maple Lane, I spotted the "Stewart Sign". I can't explain the feeling I got, but I immediately felt at home. That little sign is one of my absolute favorite parts of Stewart. I love that it looks a little worn, but it is apparent it is cared for. It is nautical and unique. It embodies our lake life.
Heidi Sparkman (4.25.2019)
There are people who enter your life that impact it so profoundly that you don't know how you could live without them. On my very first day (in my very first 15 minutes) of being the principal at Stewart, the secretary quit. I was on the floor, crawling around trying to get my computer hooked up, when she told me with tears streaming down her face. I comforted her, told her I wanted what was best for her, but internally, I was panicking.
When Heidi started, I wondered how well we would click. She seemed a little shy, a little quiet but like she could get stuff done. Being brand new, we were in for this ride together. We had to bond quickly.
To be honest, Heidi has become someone I rely on every day. She keeps me in check when I am feeling a little sassy. I can bounce ideas off of her and she isn't afraid to tell me when I am wrong. She makes me laugh at the times when I need it the most. She helps me with "special projects" that she secretly hates. She lets me in my office every time I lock myself out. She makes the office a fun, happy place.
Heidi has become one of my best friends. Sometimes she is like my mom (she HATES when I say that). Sometimes she is my colleague. But every day, even when I am not the easiest to deal with, she is a true friend. Her family has become like my adopted family. She has made such a profound impact on my life in the most positive ways. The Stewart Family truly is lucky to have Heidi at our front desk!
Heidi is amazing with our kids. She is loving, kind and warm when they are hurt or do not feel well. She celebrates their successes, birthdays and RESPECT tickets with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind! Heidi jokes around with them, listens to them, makes them smile when they visit and treats every child that walks through the door like they are her own.
The thing about Heidi is... she gets it. That's a hard thing to explain, but she just understands. Heidi is awesome. She is the BEST at the morning announcements. In many ways, Heidi is the face of Stewart. She is the voice you hear when you call, the face you see when you enter and the one you interact with whether you are happy, sad or angry. She has at least 1,000 requests asked of her every day, and somehow she manages to be patient, kind, caring and motivated.
All families have traditions that make them unique. With Easter on Sunday, I thought I would share a Berglan family tradition-- throwing dyed eggs in the street.
When I was a youngster, we used to go to my grandma's house for Easter. She lived at the top of a big hill in Marion. One year, we threw our dyed eggs on her sidewalk. They, of course, exploded into a million pieces and made a huge mess. We loved it! The tradition continued every year after.
My parents began to host Easter lunch when my grandma's health began to deteriorate. The tradition held fast, though. We began throwing the eggs in the middle of their road. We added new challenges, like hitting the railroad crossing sign, seeing how big of an "explosion" we could make, and seeing who could throw an egg the farthest.
As a classroom teacher, I continued the tradition with my kiddos. I would prepare enough hardboiled eggs for all my students to get two or three, and we would spend the afternoon before Easter coloring the eggs. Most of the students in my class had never dyed eggs, so they LOVED creating vibrant shells with designs and color combinations. After the eggs were (sort of) dry, we would go out to the playground and throw them in the grass. (I am sure my maintenance staff loved me for that!)
My parents are coming to visit this weekend. I now hold the responsibility of figuring out where we will throw eggs. If you drive down my street on Sunday, don't be surprised to find some evidence of one of my favorite Berglan family traditions! :)
On the first Friday of Spring Break, I woke up early(ish) to go to the gym. When I’m not in school, I like to work out in the morning. I think it sets a great pace for the remainder of the day, but I am pretty sure that it just helps me to eat less throughout the afternoon and evening! :)
I have been feeling a little less than motivated to complete my workouts recently. I have been on what could be deemed a diet, and I have been following a workout guide. (Beach season is just around the corner, friends!) It’s not that I don’t enjoy the guide, but I guess I don’t enjoy having a rigid schedule to follow. This Friday morning, however, was one of my flex days on my workout plan. I had the choice to do whatever I wanted to do, and I was super excited!
When I got to the gym, the owner asked me if I was doing leg day. I had, in fact, chosen to work legs that day. When told him I was, he asked if I wanted to pull a truck. Initially, I thought he was talking about a weighted sled. I have pulled a sled before, and it is a pretty fun workout. When he returned with a harness and long cable, however, I learned he was being literal. He actually meant that we were going to pull his pickup truck.
Like any reasonable human, I thought, “There is no way in the world I am going to be able to pull this truck by myself!” I have some leg strength, but I definitely didn’t think I had enough leg strength to pull a full-size pick-up truck. He went first, and he made it look easy. Typical. I was preparing myself for the embarrassment of my eminent failure.
As I was putting on the harness, I kept cracking jokes about how the truck was going to run me over or how it was going to be so pathetic when it didn’t move at all. He kept reassuring me that I would be able to do it on my own. He coached me through what techniques to use and gave me some key pointers for how to be more successful (as part of the pull was on a slight incline). I was all but certain and I was going to fail... miserably.
With the harness on, cable attached, full-size pickup truck in neutral, and a small crowd of LECO employees that had gathered to watch, I took a deep breath and began to bear crawl. I used the techniques and guidance he had given me, and before I knew it I WAS PULLING A TRUCK ACROSS A PARKING LOT. Like, what?!?? Before all was said and done, I pulled the truck three times!
Afterward, I was completely exhausted but also in awe of my own strength. I didn’t even start lifting weights until year ago and was incredibly out of shape two years prior to that. I felt incredible.
I am telling the story to make three points. The first point is that we are all very fortunate for our health and our physical abilities. This is something so easy to overlook and is often taken for granted. I am always amazed by the strength, power and resilience of the human body. We are all very fortunate to be healthy and physically able to do the things we want to do!
The second point is how success can prompt motivation. As I previously mentioned, I had been feeling very unmotivated and was actually sort of dreading my workouts. After I pulled the truck, I realize that all of my hard work really was paying off. The success of the truck experience made me want to work harder and try new things to improve myself. When we give our students the opportunity to experience success, we motivate them to try new things and encourage them to put forth more effort.
Last, we have the power to instill confidence in others through teaching them what they need. I had absolutely no confidence or faith that I was going to be able to move that truck. But the owner of the gym gave me the techniques I needed and coached me through it. After I was finished, I think he was just as excited as I was!
Think about that impact you have on your students each day. You coach them and give them the confidence they need to do things that they are certain they cannot achieve. You build them up so that they are able to experience success. You motivate them. You were capable of allowing them to see and reach their full potential.