New Lakeside principal returns to Montana roots

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Steffanie Broyles, the new principal at Lakeside Elementary School, on Thursday, Sept. 12. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

New Lakeside Elementary School Principal Steffanie Broyles is glad to be back in Montana.

After 18 years away, Broyles — whose hometown is Polson — was ready to return and be closer to family.

“I decided it was time to come home,” she said.

In her job search she said the principal position popped up and, “It ended up being a perfect fit.

“Lakeside has a mission and a vision that matches mine that is focused on the whole child,” Broyles said.

She joined Lakeside Elementary from her previous principal position at Roosevelt Elementary in Tacoma, Washington, and replaces John Thies, who retired after 17 years at Lakeside. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Montana, a master’s degree in reading and literacy and a master’s in educational leadership, both from City University in Washington.

The usual career path for administrators begins in the classroom, and Broyles isn’t different in this regard, but initially getting onto the path of education took some time. When entering college, Broyles knew she wanted to work with children, but also had an interest in medicine.

“I originally thought I wanted to be a pediatric physical therapist,” she said.

She started college majoring in physical therapy and learned her career would probably mean working more with older populations rather than children.

“I reflected on what I really wanted,” Broyles said, and what came to the surface was a memory of volunteering in a second-grade classroom at Cherry Valley Elementary in Polson her senior year of high school.

“I read with them and helped them with their class work. It was a cool experience,” she recalled.

In reflecting on the joy that experience brought her, she decided to make the switch to study education her sophomore year of college.

“I really felt joy was important to me in my career,” she said. “I think I decided I needed to be a teacher because working with kids is what I needed to do.”

Broyles began her career in education teaching middle school for 14 years. She then moved to administration, with four years split between serving as an assistant principal and principal positions for Tacoma Public Schools.

“I want to make the biggest impact I can,” she said, in taking on more responsibilities as a principal.

“The principal job, in essence, is to be a teacher of teachers,” Broyles said.

She values the opportunity to work with more people — teachers, students and families — that a principal position affords.

“What I enjoy about being an administrator is having the opportunity to make a broader impact. I work with all students rather than one classroom, or one group of students. I’m able to work with families and teachers and connect to a larger group of people who are connected to the education system.”

She said teaching has given her a firm foundation in understanding classroom instruction.

“Teachers’ main job is two things — keeping kids safe and helping kids learn. As an administrator I can take skills learned as a teacher and use them in the current role that I have,” Broyles said.

One of her goals is to ensure staff members are prepared to put into place a response to intervention model that uses various methods to give struggling students the help they need to succeed. She said the school district provided training in recent months to kick off the school year with everyone on the same page.

“We’re working on a response to intervention model, not only for academics, but for behavior,” she said. “The response to intervention system uses student data for making instructional decisions.”

“It’s a whole school effort,” she said about ensuring consistency across classrooms.

Right now, Broyles said her focus is on listening and learning.

“My job is to learn from others. I come in and listen to what teachers say is needed and responding as I go,” she said. “We’ll develop plans collectively, as a team, so that we can do what’s best for kids.”

One of the items she has heard from teachers as an area to work on is improving implementation of the Montana Behavioral Initiative, which seeks to foster positive school cultures and attitudes by working with students to develop social and emotional skills.

In making the move to Montana, Broyles brought along her Chihuahua Lil P, who she adopted from a former elementary student who couldn’t keep the dog.

Outside of school she enjoys riding her motorcycle and getting into the outdoors.

“More so than anything I’m really excited to be in Lakeside and working here ­— working with kids and watching them grow. That’s really what it’s all about — watching kids grow and be successful,” she said.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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