October is National Principals Month and A+ Education Partnership is recognizing a representative sample of our many great principals across Alabama. Watch for profiles all this month.
Beverly Spondike became principal of Saraland High in 2010, after serving as assistant principal and then principal at Spanish Fort High School (2005-2010). She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education from Kent State University and her Master’s in Educational Leadership at the University of South Alabama, where she was Outstanding Graduate Student of the Year.
How long have you been a principal? Briefly describe your education journey.
I have had the pleasure of being an administrator for 15 years. I have been an educator for 44 years and truly have been blessed to have the opportunity to work with students and fellow educators. I taught Spanish, speech and drama at the high school level in three states during my long career, moving to Alabama in 1993.
In my years as a principal, not one day has been the same, but every day is as important as the next. Knowing that the decisions we make will impact the students today and perhaps their entire future is a tremendous responsibility.
What are 2-3 insights you would share with others who want to become principals?
Principals are leaders, decision makers, counselors, facilitators, problem solvers, and managers. The best advice I would offer to those entering the position would be to always take the time to be a good listener! It does not matter if you agree with what your student, parent, or teacher has to say, providing that opportunity for them to be heard and showing a true sense of compassion will definitely result in a more favorable outcome.
A principal must have trust in those around him/her and delegate responsibilities with the utmost confidence that the task will be completed successfully. This is definitely something that I had to learn early on in my career. Relying on others who have the same passion for our students’ success was a key factor.
What keeps you up at night and what gets you out of bed in the morning?
There is never a night, and I am sure my husband would agree, that I do not ask myself is there something or someone who I did not speak with or return an email or call that I needed to address. But I have always been able to put my head down on my pillow at night knowing that I have been fair and consistent with my decisions.
In the morning, I arise eager to be with our students again. The “chat and chows with Mrs.Spondike” during lunch waves are priceless. The meetings with students that they initiate to present new ideas I will never forget. They have requested benefits for one of their classmates who is ill, or permission to develop a new club that will allow fellow students to express their individualities. At times like that, I have never been more proud of them. I am extremely grateful and feel so very blessed to call myself their principal.
What are 2-3 essential skills that all leaders should possess?
A principal must have compassion, flexibility, and an ability to adapt to whatever he or she is challenged to do. Consistency is also a key component.
Providing advice through mentoring, resources, and continuous professional development training is essential for my teachers to grow and to become outstanding educators. As a former teacher in the classroom for twenty plus years, I always try to remember the challenges that I experienced as a teacher.
Teacher development is a critical skill. I must provide the opportunities for the teachers to participate in professional development and also the financial support needed. I encourage my teachers to research any training available that will assist in them growing professionally. I am proud to say that I have always prioritized this and made it possible for them to take part.
In what ways do you network with other educators outside your school? How do you create opportunities for your own professional learning?
I continue to learn every day and the collaboration with other principals is very important. I learn from fellow administrators in discussions during our professional development meetings, but I am never too proud to just pick up the phone and ask for ideas or advice.
We must always be willing to make changes when they are needed. As a leader who is responsible for the success of so many others, becoming stagnant with our ideas and comfortable with our methods can be very detrimental to the overall success of everyone.
Our monthly leadership meetings have provided “aha” moments that may never have happened if we had not taken the time to really hear one another. In the last couple of years, we have also realized the importance of vertical alignment. Within our feeder pattern, teachers need to collaborate to understand how and what our students are being taught in the younger grades.
Any final thoughts?
This past week was Homecoming. It truly was the best ever! With the teamwork of all, we had halls decorated to the theme of “The Greatest Show On Earth,” opened the school to the public for viewing, prepared a special tea for the Homecoming Court, held a pep rally at the elementary school where our band, cheerleaders, and players were treated like celebrities by our “Little Spartans,” hosted our K-1 students at a pep rally (priceless), held a community bonfire with food wagons (including cotton candy), put on an amazing Robotics competition on Saturday morning, and held the Homecoming dance last night!
All in one week in the life of a principal. I would not change a minute of it. It’s truly “The Greatest Job On Earth!”