A trip to the office
WORTHINGTON -- Heidi Meyer has spent a good deal of time in the principal's office over the years, but not because she's been misbehaving.
As an elementary teacher specializing in emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD), Meyer has been an important part of District 518 since December 1994. She will soon spend even more time in the Prairie Elementary principal's office when she steps into the role of assistant principal there on Aug. 6.
"As an EBD teacher, I worked with classroom teachers to identify and assess students to see if they qualified for extra support services, and then planned and implemented the support programs for those children," explained Meyer, a Sherburn native who earned her undergraduate degree in English and special education at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D.
"I honestly thought teaching high school English was my calling, but I landed the EBD job at Central Elementary right out of college and absolutely loved it," Meyer admitted. "EBD is a very challenging field, and I learned I had a passion for helping kids who were struggling. Finding ways to provide support for classroom teachers and advocating for those kids within their classrooms was a big part of my job."
Meyer's EBD position also required her to be a liaison between the school and outside agencies, such as Nobles County Family Services and the local medical and mental health systems.
"An EBD teacher needs to be very consistent and structured, yet able to be flexible," noted Meyer. "It takes someone who has good intuition and problem-solving skills, an open mind, strong communication skills and lots of empathy."
Those skills will transfer handily to Meyer's work as an assistant principal, which requires many of the same traits she displayed professionally over the past two decades.
"I feel the role I have had sets a strong foundation for moving into an administrative mind-set," Meyer said. "I've worked with Prairie's students and families, and all of the teachers. Having had school-wide experiences was huge for me in deciding to continue on -- I really attribute that exposure to pushing me on to the next step.
"In EBD, I did a lot of school-wide discipline, and historically I've always worked closely with the building's assistant principal, so it's a pretty natural fit."
Indeed, Prairie Elementary principal Josh Noble was Prairie's assistant principal prior to assuming his principal role two years ago -- and he, too, was a Prairie EBD teacher before making the jump to administration.
"Mrs. Meyer will be able to make a smooth transition from her previous position to the assistant principal job," Noble said. "She is knowledgeable and understands the students, staff and parents, as well as being committed to this school district and community."
Meyer took personal initiative to qualify professionally for this move, having earned a master's degree in educational leadership in January 2004 and completing her educational administration licensure in January 2012. She gained both credentials through St. Mary's University.
With an expected student count of about 1,100 for the 2012-13 school year, Prairie Elementary is a busy and dynamic environment.
"At the moment, Prairie is very focused on student achievement, and there are a lot of powerful and positive initiatives going on that are important in making sure all students are being challenged and exhibiting growth," said Meyer. "Certainly my goal is to support the teachers by helping them connect those initiatives to their classrooms and to maintain that momentum.
"Obviously, we have a wealth of knowledge in our staff's expertise, and some good restructuring in how teachers collaborate has helped capitalize on that," she continued. "Our staff development programs take our student and community diversity into account.
"Certainly cultural diversity is a factor, but diversity in socio-economic and learning levels also present challenges and have to be considered."
Meyer and her husband, Worthington native Kelly Meyer, live in town with their two children -- Anna, a Worthington Middle School sixth-grader, and Ethan, a Prairie second-grader.
"Having my own kids in District 518's public schools has helped me relate to other parents, and I can see first-hand how the district is able to respond to the different needs and abilities of each individual child," Meyer said.
Meyer appreciates the quality of life Worthington freely offers to families, and the Meyers take full advantage of the opportunities here.
"We are invested in this community," she affirmed. "Our church life has been rich, we are active in the YMCA, local music programs, dance, sports, community education -- we find all that valuable as parents with children, and I try to help other families connect with those opportunities.
"When you're out and involved in the community, the ties and connections you make can be equally as valuable as what you accomplish sitting at your desk," she added. "Visibility is important to me, and I want people to feel they can talk with me about their cares and concerns.
"I'm very excited to be a part of District 518's leadership team," Meyer asserted. "I think each administrator brings a different perspective to the table, but they all seem to care. I'm ready for this new challenge."