Gerri Shaw retires this year after a decade as principal of Kyrene Aprende Middle School and 10 earlier years in classrooms around the district.
It’s been quite an adventure, she admits, with lots of surprises along the way.
But Shaw got the biggest surprise of all this year at an assembly just prior to spring break: a video featuring teachers, staff and students saying farewell to someone many agreed was their all-time favorite principal.
“This assembly had a bonus twist to it,” said Haley Jensen, Aprende eighth-grade math teacher. “The PTSO (Parent-Teacher-Student Organization) came to us and said that if we did what we were planning in the third quarter, she wouldn’t be expecting it.”
Cathleen Click, student council president at Aprende, said the students worked hard and successfully kept the presentation a secret.
“The video is all of the students and teachers waving goodbye,” Click said, just before the assembly began. “So we’re hoping to get some tears out of her.”
No disappointment there: Shaw’s eyes glossed over as the video played.
“I was totally shocked,” she said. “I felt so honored that they would think to do something like that.”
Although she’s looking forward to retirement, Shaw said she has some regrets, as well.
“I will miss the students so much,” she said. “They’ve been part of my family, seeing them grow – we’ve really been building community here.”
Shaw began her first two years with the district alternating between Kyrene de los Niños and Kyrene de la Mariposa elementary schools, she said, and watched as the district grew in the number of schools, moving to Aprende during the first year it was open.
“There were so many positive experiences,” Shaw said. “Personally, having the support of (Superintendent ) Dr. Schauer to try innovative programs at Aprende helped to grow the school to what it has become.”
That growth is visible for all to see in the banner hanging outside Aprende that distinguishes it as an A+ School of Excellence, a trademark of the Arizona Educational Foundation honoring successful student and staff programs at the school.
“We’ll also be receiving an A+ Exemplary banner in April for our peer-tutoring program,” Shaw said. “The Educational Foundation looks for unique programs like this, and it’s something they, like other schools, need to be aware of.”
The rise in student achievement is also a product of having a great group of parental involvement, she said.
“We have amazing parents here,” Shaw said. “I can’t say enough about the PTSO; they have been so great over the years.
“It’s been so wonderful to be a part of this school and community.”