New Albany Elementary Principal Gwyn Russell wants learning to be engaging and fun for students.
At the same time, she wants to lay an educational foundation that prepares students for high school, college and the workforce.
In addition, Russell wants students to grow up to be productive citizens with a mindset that it is important to give back to others and make the community a better place.
Russell, who is in her second year as principal at New Albany Elementary, is the administrator of the year in the New Albany School District.
Russell said students learn in different ways and that she wants to meet those individual needs so the children can grow.
With 1,100 students and some 140 staff members, New Albany Elementary School is like a “really big family,” said Russell.
Managing such a big responsibility requires strong communication and the ability to build quality relationships, she added.
It is important for her to lead as a servant. She does not ask staff to do things she would not be willing to do. Being able to admit when she’s wrong or does not know the answer is also vital, she said.
Russell, who grew up poor, said she has always been placed in leadership roles since she was a child. She has learned from a lot of tough situations, and has a strong work ethic, she added.
Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, Russell said. A weakness can actually become a strength after some focus is put on the problem, she noted. She believes in focusing on the whole child.
Educators have an opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of children, she said. She enjoys watching teachers grow in the profession because that means the students are getting the instruction that they need, she said.
Russell also likes going into the classroom to interact with the students and watch them learn. She is there to greet the students in the morning when they get off the bus. She wants to know all the students, not just those she sees for discipline issues.
Russell also gets to know the teachers and had one-on-one meetings with them to build relationships.
Other than preparing students academically, she wants them to be quality citizens as well. Students at the elementary level are very open and honest and will say what they are thinking, Russell said.
The children motivate her to learn and grow and keep her on her toes, she said.