0702_dnr_HCPS Principals_2

Newly appointed Keister Elementary School Principal Mark Miller talks with School Board members and other staff after a special meeting Tuesday.

HARRISONBURG — Mark Miller began his career in elementary education 15 years ago because the opportunity was available.

But he’s stayed because of elementary-aged students’ love of learning and their willingness to try new things.

“They’re really like sponges,” Miller said. “They’re willing to accept feedback and that’s what draws me to that age.”

Miller’s career kicked off at Waterman Elementary School in 2004 as a third grade teacher. He taught there until 2010 when Smithland Elementary School opened. He taught fourth grade there for two years before taking over as assistant principal, a role in which he served for five years.

He found himself at Keister Elementary School in 2015 as assistant principal, where he worked under Julie Zook.

“I was able to work closely with the principal and had a lot of opportunities to lead and work on different projects,” he said.

This prepared Miller for his appointment to principal for the 2019-2020 school year. And it made the transition a smooth one.

Miller said the greatest challenge of being a school leader is making sure students have their basic needs met on a daily basis. Every student is different and the challenges they face are always changing.

“There is a lot of trial and error,” Miller said. “You constantly have to try new things.”

What makes Keister Elementary School special is its tight-knit school community, Miller said. The parents are supportive and a lot of them know each other outside of school.

“It’s hard to find a lot of schools that have that family atmosphere and also teacher collaboration,” Miller said.

Miller said he’s looking forward to seeing the kids back in the classroom. He said summer can be hard when it’s your job to serve children, but they’re not in school.

“I can’t wait for those smiles and the light bulbs going off,” Miller said.

Along with Miller, Spotswood Elementary School has a new principal in Deb Cook. And Harrisonburg High School has new leadership after the retirement of Cynthia Prieto in Melissa Hensley.

Contact Megan Williams at 574-6272 or mwilliams@dnronline.com. Follow Megan on Twitter @DNR_Learn

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