Watching teachers motivate the kids who don’t want to be there, but engaging in humorous conversations with the kids that do. Forming relationships with students and staff while guiding them until they become the greatest they can be. That’s what school is all about for East’s new associate principal, Dr. Susan Leonard.Leonard will be the associate principal for East students with last names A through G – roughly 450 kids. Going into the 2016-2017 school year, Leonard is expecting big changes for herself as an administrator. Switching from Pembroke Hill Middle School, where the grade levels are one quarter of what they are East, is going to be her biggest change.
“Right now, I walk into classes with maybe only 12 students and think, ‘Is everyone here?’” Leonard said. “But now, I will walk into classes with 30 kids. It’s just going to take some time to adjust to the size of East.”
After 16 years of working with middle schoolers, Leonard feels like she is ready to “grow up” and go back to high school, especially to a school as big as East. Even with all the new responsibilities and students, Leonard isn’t nervous about changing. She says her excitement has overthrown any other feelings towards transitioning to East.
“I’m so excited to become a part of the East community,” Leonard said. “I can’t believe I am this lucky to be a part of all theschool pride.”
For principal John McKinney, luck had nothing to do with Leonard’s selection for the position. Of the forty applicants, five were selected for interviews, and Leonard was the best fit for the spot.
“Dr. Leonard really exhibited the qualities that I look for in an any applicant, but most of all her passion for teaching,” McKinney said. “I think she will fit in very well with our administrative team, our teachers and most importantly our students.”
Growing up, Leonard moved around more than most. She attended elementary school in Colorado, high school in New Jersey and college at the University of Kansas. In her eyes, moving around to so man
y schools is what shaped Leonard’s love for education. During her summers, she would anxiously wait for school in whatever new town she was living in, while her parents would look for the best schools rather than finding the best house. The thing that interested her most about these new places was what made the schools she was attending so prestigious.
Leonard never saw herself as a teacher or principal back then; she saw herself working in law. Going into college, Leonard was majoring in history and political sciences. On the side, she took an Education 100 class because it was a two credit hour class to help her GPA. She immediately fell in love with education and switched her major.
Leonard began her career by teaching history at Winnetonka High School in North Kansas City, then getting her masters degree in Administration with the goal of becoming an athletic director. As a part of her internship for her master’s, Leonard ran a summer school program in North Kansas City and a co-worker recruited her to become an assistant principal at Northgate Middle School. She loved it.
“As a principal you get to see kids in so many different lights, whereas as a teacher you only get to see them in that certain class,” Leonard said. “And I love watching – I love watching good teachers teach. So to see all of these things as a whole, that’s the best part for me.”
Leonard lives in the East district, and knows many East students already. Junior Josie Clough babysits for Leonard, and she thinks Leonard will fit in very well with the East community.
“She’s really, really nice, and she’s really personal,” Clough said. “I think she will fit in well with the everyone at East.”
Leonard has supported several East sports teams since her niece, junior Sarah Maddox, and nephew, freshman Anderson Maddox, have been involved. She often goes to volleyball and basketball games to watch them.
According to Leonard, her favorite thing about East is the school pride. Over the ten years she has lived in the area, Leonard has found a love for the happiness East students possess.
“It’s so awesome when I need a babysitter on Friday nights, and no one can because they’re all at the football games,” Leonard said. “I just think that’s so cool, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”