Introductions are in order for Valerie Crowl, the new principal at Windsor Elementary School.
“My No. 1 priority is getting to know people and building relationships,” said Crowl, who officially took over the job July 1. “I want to listen and learn.”
Originally from northwest Indiana and a graduate of Ball State University, Crowl has been an educator for 26 years. All of them were spent in Texas.
Windsor Elementary will be the smallest school she’s ever worked at, with around 550 students. Crowl said she will learn to adapt, but some things will be familiar.
“Everybody has been so nice,” said Crowl. “I know I’m an outsider, but I know the systems for accountability and assessment are similar to Texas.”
Crowl met her husband, Matthew, a few years ago. He’s from the Schaumburg, Illinois, area. She said they joked about going home to the Midwest. Soon, they realized there wasn’t anything keeping them in Texas, so they got more serious about it.
“We were drawn to be closer to family,” said Crowl. “Everything just fell into place.”
So far, they’ve been constantly impressed with how welcoming and friendly the DeForest Windsor area has been to them.
As for the principal job, Crowl said she was picky in her job search.
“A couple of things drew me here,” said Crowl. “I could tell from the district web site and in talking to everyone that they place a heavy emphasis on the whole child. The job of educating children is important, but so is character development and social and emotional development, and I love some of the things they’re doing to meet those needs.”
Crowl said she wanted to find the perfect fit, even in this area’s tough job market for educators. She wanted to be fully committed to a district where she wanted to spend the rest of her career. Previously, Crowl had spent the last 18 years in the same district, Round Rock ISD in Austin, Texas.
The job she interviewed for initially with DeForest went to someone else. Ultimately, everything worked out for the best, though, as Crowl feels Windsor Elementary is an even better situation for her.
After graduating from college, Crowl got a job in the Houston area. She spent 16 years in the classroom as a teacher, and considered getting a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. Her principal encouraged her to think more about leadership. Crowl has since worked as an instructional coach, curriculum specialist, assistant principal and principal.
Crowl’s first job as an assistant principal was at a bilingual elementary school of 700 kids. It was a “turnaround school,” meaning “ … the state worked with us” to get it compliant. Crowl said they turned it around in two years. She took the job knowing it might be difficult.
“I wouldn’t have applied if I wasn’t ready to take it on,” said Crowl. “It was a challenge, but it was a learning experience. I felt I probably would learn more there. It was a situation where you knew you had to change. Everybody does it. It’s like going to the doctor and being told you have to lose 50 pounds. You just do it.”
Next, Crowl moved on to become principal of an elementary school of 800 kids.
“It was very different,” said Crowl. “It was more of an upper-end school socio-economically, but it was a diverse in ethnicities and cultures.”
Then, there was a chance to become assistant principal at a high-performing middle school with an enrollment of 800.
The couple has two kids, a 22-year-old daughter Brittany who is attending Texas Tech University and an 18-year-old son Bradley who just graduated high school. Valerie also has three step-daughters: Haley, Paige and Sarah.
Crowl said she knew DeForest was the district for her. She knew it had a good reputation and that her philosophy was aligned with that of the district.
As she gets to know the school, Crowl said, “I hope we get everyone moving in the same direction together.”
After working at the middle school level, Crowl is anxious to get back to an elementary school. She said it’s always harder for students in middle school and high school if they haven’t had a good elementary school experience.
“I’ve always been more passionate about working with younger kids,” said Crowl.
A smaller school district like DeForest allows for more hands-on educating and can be more personable and supportive, Crowl feels. At the same time, Crowl knows DeForest Windsor is a growing community. Crowl is looking forward to the first day of school at Windsor Elementary.
“I love seeing the smiling faces,” said Crowl. “They just love school at that age. At middle school, they don’t love school as much. There’s just a buzz of excitement on that first day. I’m a positive and upbeat person, and I want to harness that here for the students.”