School year begins for new principal at Simmons Elementary School
First-year Principal Tiffany Cook was visiting classrooms and getting to know students during the first three days of school at Simmons Elementary last week. Being a frequent visitor in class keeps this former teacher connected to students. She wants to know every student by name so she can offer words of encouragement to them after she reviews schoolwork with their teachers. “We’re making sure we’re focused on every kid and what they need every single day,” said Cook. On Thursday, she played a math game with third-, fourth- and fifth-graders. “It was fun for me too,” Cook said. On Friday morning, Cook stopped by teacher Angela Lance’s classroom to read, and also introduce herself to students. She was surprised when the kindergartners and first-graders began singing “Happy Birthday” to their new principal, who officially celebrated her birthday on Saturday. “That was the best birthday song I think I’ve ever heard,” Cook told the students. “…Give yourself a little pat on the back – great job.” Cook began Friday – her third day of school – with a birthday breakfast party courtesy of her faculty. With 11 years of classroom experience in Fayette County schools, Cook knows teachers are the ones making a difference in the lives of students. So she understands why she needs to support them “because the real magic happens with the teacher,” she explained. A new Gold Standard Board will recognize students at Simmons for doing their personal best on schoolwork. Teachers will send those students to the office so Cook and her administrative dean, Damon Stefanic, can post their good work for everyone to see. “How many of you knew it was a good thing to come to the principal’s office sometimes,” Cook asked students in Lance’s class. “I want each of you to come to the office because I want you to bring me your personal best work.” She said students can also earn lunch at Hard Work Café whenever they are a good friend or exhibiting good character in school. “So it’s just another positive way to recognize those kids,” said Cook. “And it doesn’t have to be just (for a student’s) academic” achievements. Asked about Stefanic, Cook said, “I could not have picked a better person … to balance my strengths.” Her administrative dean has implemented and oversees a student behavior initiative so Cook can better focus on academics, curriculum and an overall vision for Simmons Elementary, she said.