An Interview with Casey Lindberg
“Although I truly love my job, I don’t like when I get too busy to interact with the kids and teachers. Some days I am stuck in my office doing paperwork or talking on the phone. When I can’t get out of the office, it affects how I relate to students.”
Casey Lindberg is an assistant principal at Kopachuck Middle School in Gig Harbor, Washington. Before becoming an assistant principal, Casey was a teacher for 14 years.
Casey has a Master of Educational Administration from Western Washington University and a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Central Washington University. Casey earned a principal’s certificate in 2004.
In your own words, what is a principal?
At the most basic level, a principal is the liaison between everyone within a school. As an assistant principal, I work with kids, first and foremost. I understand the individual stories of the kids at my school and I help deal with any issues, positive or negative, that arise. But I also support the teachers in the school, communicate with parents and work with the district administration to make decisions.
If a student said to you, “I am interested in becoming a principal,” what would your response be?
If a student expressed interest in becoming a principal, I would say that is fantastic. But I would also ask the student if he or she realizes everything that is involved in working as a principal. Being a principal takes excellent work ethic. It also requires good communication skills and the ability to work with many different types of people. Being a principal is hard work. There is a common misconception that principals only work during standard school operation hours. However, problems and special circumstances frequently arise and some days a principal might work into the late evening.
What level of education is necessary to become a principal?
A masters degree in school administration is required to become a school principal.
Are there any licensing or certification requirements to become a principal?
Yes, state principal certification is required to become a principal. In order to take the principal certification exam, a teaching license and 3 years of teaching experience are mandatory.
Why did you decide to become a principal?
I became an assistant principal because I wanted to use the experience I gained from teaching to work at the administrative level. While I was a teacher, I cultivated my communication and people skills, and I learned about education, kids and teaching. I earned my principal certification in 2004 but I continued to work as a teacher for another 4 years. In 2010, I decided that I was ready to move up as an assistant principal.
What were the biggest misconceptions that you had about becoming a principal?
I did not have any misconceptions about becoming an assistant principal because I spent 14 years teaching before I entered this profession. I also completed an internship where I was exposed to the job of a principal. Because I had so much first-hand exposure in the field of education, I knew what a job in education administration would entail.
What do you enjoy most and least about being a principal?
My favorite part of being an assistant principal is working with kids. I entered the field of education because I want to play a role in molding the minds of young people.
Although I truly love my job, I don’t like when I get too busy to interact with the kids and teachers. Some days I am stuck in my office doing paperwork or talking on the phone. When I can’t get out of the office, it affects how I relate to students. But even on my busiest days, I try to walk the halls at least once and say hi to students.
What is a typical day like for you?
Most days I arrive at school around 7:15 a.m. First I respond to e-mails and check my calendar for any special events. After that, my day usually varies. I often meet with the principal or counsel students who have made bad choices. A few times each week, I have meetings with teachers and observe them in their classrooms. Sometimes I talk with parents. Most days I leave school at 4:30, but I will stay late when there is a special event.
How do you balance your work and your personal life?
Working as an assistant principal is more of a lifestyle than a job. Although I can complete most of my work while I am at school, I often think about my job while I am at home. In order to balance my work and home life, I try to manage my time wisely. For example, I have a long work commute so I make phone calls in the car rather than bring this work home with me.
What personality traits do you think would help someone succeed as a principal and what traits would hinder success?
To be a principal, it is very important that you have a positive attitude and be willing to do whatever needs to be done. Problems might come up and you need to be able to solve them in whatever way is necessary. That means happily stepping into unfamiliar roles and doing jobs that might not be in your official job description. For example, you may need to work in the cafeteria or help the school secretaries.
It is also crucial to have good communication skills. You will speak with many different people and you need to tailor your words to your audience. Communicating with kids can be a challenge so you need to feel comfortable talking to them, in addition to teachers and parents.
A trait that would hinder success is lack of vision. If you don’t have a vision for the school and the ways you want to make it better, then you can’t possibly be successful. Another trait that might hinder success is being inflexible. If you are inflexible with your time and your tasks, you will not be successful as a principal.
Looking back at your formal education, is there anything you would have done differently?
The only thing I would have done differently during my education would be to study more during college. But I am happy with the other choices I made about my educational path. I have no regrets about where I earned my degrees and the subjects I chose to study.
Are there any extra-curricular experiences that you think a student interested in becoming a principal should pursue?
If you are an aspiring principal, I recommend extracurricular experiences that involve kids or education. Any activities working with kids, such as helping with a school play or coaching a youth sports team, will help once you become a principal.
What classes did you take during your schooling that you have found to be the most and least valuable for the work you do today?
Most of the classes I took in college, particularly in graduate school, have been helpful to me today. I took classes on finance, supervision and school law that were all very useful.
My undergraduate classes were not specifically applicable to my job today, but earning my bachelors degree taught me real world skills that are necessary in my job. For example, I learned time management and self-discipline despite studying topics that were not related to my future career.
What words of advice or caution would you share with a student who is interested in becoming a principal?
If you are interested in becoming a principal, the best advice I can give is to first go and speak with a principal. Ask questions about what the job is really like. If you can, shadow a principal to get a feel for the profession. Getting first-hand exposure to the job will allow you to determine if you might be happy and successful as a principal before you dedicate the time and money to graduate school.