As Wauwatosa East High School implements curriculum changes and a new model for teacher evaluation and compensation, it will be under the leadership of two new associate principals, Willie Garrison and Tina Koch.
Former associate principals Jean Hoffmann and Elizabeth Kayzar both left for other positions, with Hoffman becoming the principal at McKinley Elementary this year.
The new associate principals hail from opposite directions, with Garrison coming from Hamilton High School in Milwaukee where he was the associate principal and Koch coming from Waukesha STEM Academy where she taught middle school.
Garrison and Koch, who will be involved in curriculum development and teacher evaluation, both said they thought the positions were logical next steps for their careers.
Third time's a charm
Garrison has worked in Milwaukee schools for many years, teaching at Malcolm X Academy, Solomon Juneau High School and Hamilton High School, where he became associate principal.
He has an undergraduate degree from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and a master's from National Louis University in Chicago.
After experiencing private, charter and public schools in Milwaukee, Garrison said he wanted to work in a "suburban" school to continue what he sees as his lifelong role as an educator.
"I think sometimes people know what they really want to do," Garrison said. "I've known since I would like to believe the day I was born."
He credits his mother as his first educator, who inspired him on his career path and taught him three things (as prescribed by Thomas Edison): hard work, perseverance and common sense.
The second tenet is how he got the job at Tosa East. Garrison said he first applied to work in the district in 2006. He didn't get the job but applied to the district again in 2010, and again recently for the associate principal position.
Garrison said he thought his wide-ranging background in different types of schools would help him bring fresh ideas to the high school.
"What I bring is that understanding of that full compass of being in different systems and taking the positives from each and really focusing on those," Garrison said.
Garrison is married with three kids, ages 13, 9 and 3. He and his family will soon be moving from Milwaukee to Mequon. In his free time, Garrison said he likes to ride a motorcycle, fish, be outdoors and watch sports.
"I'm a country boy from the South, so we always say we live on three concepts: church, family and football," he said.
'Visible and present'
Koch (pronounced "cook"), who attended Cardinal Stritch as an undergraduate and got her master's degree from Carroll University, also has some experience in nontraditional education. After working at Lowell Elementary School in Waukesha for two years, she moved to the new Waukesha STEM Academy, a charter school.
"I really wanted to be part of something new and innovative," she said.
That's also what drew her to Wauwatosa. Koch said she appreciates the district's commitment to innovative approaches to learning.
She was also drawn to a slightly more diverse population than the one she served at Waukesha STEM. Wauwatosa East has a 28 percent minority population. About 19 percent of students are classified by the Department of Public Instruction as "economically disadvantaged."
Looking to help close the achievement gaps correlated with race and income, the district is implementing a grant-funded Equal Opportunity Schools program with the goal of greater diversity in Advanced Placement courses.
Another initiative Koch said she is looking forward to is known as "grading for learning," in which students are graded based on a rubric with narrative explanations of how they did, rather than just letter grades.
"It really looks at each student on an individual basis and what kind of feedback we are giving," Koch said.
As teachers further align their curricula with Common Core standards and try out new ideas in their classrooms, Koch said she plans to spend as much time as she can observing their instruction firsthand and being accessible to both teachers and students.
"Being visible and present in a building, I think, is huge," she said. "I'm really looking forward to the first couple days, being around the lunchroom and classrooms. I want to let students know I am here for support, so you don't just go to the principal's office because you're in trouble."
Koch lives in Oak Creek with her husband, with whom she likes to go fishing, running, hiking and biking. She also likes reading, learning about new technology and using Twitter (@tinakoch815).
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