Cook looks to make 'great strides' as Simmons principal
TIFFANY COOK views becoming principal at Simmons Elementary School as an opportunity to pass along her love of learning to teachers and their students. Cook is pictured with her husband, Rusty, and their 9-year-old son, Colin. (Photo submitted) With her strong background in curriculum, a hardworking staff at Simmons Elementary School, "and the structures I'm looking to put into place," newly hired Principal Tiffany Cook said, "I feel like we can really make some great strides" at Simmons. "Really right now," said Cook during a telephone interview last Friday, "I just need to build relationships, establish a strong educational culture, and that will lead to increased student achievement - where every child performs at their highest potential." Woodford County Public Schools' excellent reputation and "the small-town community feel" of Simmons Elementary both appealed to Cook when she pursued the opportunity to succeed Larry Caudill as principal. She comes to Simmons at a time when academic expectations for students and schools continue to evolve and change. "Good teaching is good teaching and it always has been," said Cook. "If there is solid instruction going on every day, with high expectations and loving relationships, then everything else will fall in place. If they have good instruction all year long, then on the state assessment they're going to do just fine." Cook, an administrative dean and curriculum coach at Picadome Elementary School in Fayette County for the last five years, said she will always consider herself a teacher "because if I lose that then I've lost sight of what I'm doing." She views becoming a school principal as an opportunity to pass along her love of learning to teachers and their students, which was always her focus at Picadome Elementary. A classroom teacher at Cassidy Elementary School for 11 years before moving into school administration, Cook said she feels "very prepared" to take on the principal reins at Simmons. She will rely on what she's learned as an instructional leader in recent years, while always staying focused on curriculum and instruction. "I've seen wonderful things happen when we have high expectations for kids, but (we) also love them," said Cook. She wants every child to get a quality education when they are students at Simmons Elementary School so they have a foundation for future successes. "I strongly believe that every child deserves a high-quality education and that no matter where they come from, no matter what their background - they can achieve at high levels. And I expect every child to do so," said Cook, who has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree (reading and writing specialist) from the University of Kentucky. Additionally, she earned her principal certification from Northern Kentucky University. Cook does not officially begin her duties as principal at Simmons Elementary until July 1, but she's already been welcomed by other principals and administrators in the district. "Everybody has just gone out of their way to welcome me, to make sure I have everything that I need," she said. Earlier last week, Cook met the Simmons staff and she said they were also "genuinely welcoming." "So I can't wait to get in and get started because everyone's just been so welcoming and kind," added Cook. She was scheduled to meet with Damon Stefanic, her administrative dean at Simmons, this week. "I've heard wonderful things about Mr. Stefanic," said Cook, "and I can't wait to work with him." She will also have one-on-one meetings with her faculty and staff so they can get to know each other, and she can gain their insights into what Simmons needs to do differently going forward. "I can look at the data all day long, but they're the ones that know Simmons. And I want to make sure I get their input before I make any of those critical decisions," said Cook. Both of Cook's parents were teachers - her dad's still teaching - and she always wanted to follow in their footsteps. "I think I was a teacher from the day I was born," said Cook. "I just always liked school growing up. That's just always what I wanted to do." And because her dad was also a high school principal, she always thought of herself as "a leader and a teacher since I can remember."