Leading in the Age of Technology
By Jasmine Gomez | Photography by Mary Grace Photography
St. Margaret’s School principal, Amanda Hopkins, once spent a chilly November day on the roof of the school reading a book. The almost seven hours she spent atop the building were an effort to encourage her students to read.
Having led the school for almost four years, she’s devoted to seeing her students and staff succeed by helping them in any way she can, even if that means reading a book while exposed to the late-fall elements.
Before becoming principal, Amanda spent more than 11 years teaching inside the classroom. After graduating from The College of St. Rose in Albany with a dual degree in special and elementary education, Amanda spent several years in teaching positions, including several years as a pre-k teacher.
Amanda was eventually asked to pursue a degree in administration, in order to take on a leadership role. But her love of the classroom and opportunity to work directly with children made her hesitant. She wasn’t sure she wanted to leave her comfort zone.
“Now I look at it as an opportunity to impact a whole school and to really help and support phenomenal teachers in reaching all students,” Amanda said. “It’s been a very exciting process for me.”
Before starting her journey as principal, Amanda enrolled in Le Moyne College, eventually earning a master’s degree in education and a certification in building leadership. She has a pending certification in district leadership.
Coincidentally, her time as a student at Le Moyne overlapped with her daughter’s, who is now a senior at the school.
“There was a semester where we were both going to classes. It was very competitive in a friendly nature,” Amanda said with a laugh.
Her four years as principal at St. Margaret’s School — which started with the school’s 60th anniversary year — have been a rewarding opportunity to help students holistically, both academically and spiritually, she said. With about 200 students enrolled, the school is a relatively small institution belonging to the Diocese of Syracuse. Amanda said its size helps her and the rest of the staff cater to each child’s individual needs.
“We really look at the child individually and say, ‘OK, what is this child struggling with?’” she explained. “We have time to meet together — the teacher and myself — and say, ‘This little guy or girl is struggling in this. How can we support them?’”
Under Amanda’s leadership, St. Margaret’s has been able to secure several grants to fund innovative projects at the school, many of which help the school integrate technology components into its curriculum.
With the help of a $13,000 science grant, St. Margaret’s has become the first elementary school in Central New York to have a dedicated science lab for its students, something Amanda said she would have appreciated when she was in elementary school.
“It really pushes students to a deeper understanding of science content,” Amanda said. “So it’s been wonderful for our school. How fun — you put on a science jacket, you go into the science room [and] you do this wonderful experiment with your teacher.”
This year, the school won a $10,500 grant from the Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation to resurface the school gym floor. The gym hosts parochial league teams, as well as a Saturday community basketball program.
The school also offers a robotics program that aims to teach young students to code by learning how to program a robot. Children in fourth, fifth and sixth grades are also given Chromebooks to aid in the math curriculum.
“Our math program is completely integrated with technology,” Amanda said. “So children can go on their Chromebook and review a lesson if they’ve missed something, and understand it when they’re doing homework.”
While Amanda may be the principal of St. Margaret’s, she credits her team for the school’s success.
“We have a phenomenal team of teachers at St. Margaret’s who go above and beyond to always continue their own learning, so that they impact students in a positive way,” Amanda said. “It’s really a beautiful gift that they give to our student body.” SWM
For more information on St. Margaret’s School, visit stmargaretschoolny.org.