Robert Winters brings experience in Int’l Baccalaureate program
By Marcy Stamper
Robert Winters, an educator with 30 years of teaching experience in the United States and abroad, including five years as an elementary principal, has been selected as the next principal of Methow Valley Elementary School.
Winters was the unanimous choice of the interview committee, which deliberated for two hours after three finalists spent a full day in interviews and meetings with staff, students and the community on Wednesday (May 6).
Winters was offered the job on Monday (May 11). He said he would be “thrilled and honored” to accept, according to Methow Valley Superintendent Tom Venable.
Winters has been an elementary school instructor for most of his career, teaching grades three through six at several schools in Bellingham, as well as in Romania, Malaysia and Scotland. He also taught math, science and health for three years at a junior high school in Massachusetts.
Winters was principal of Harmony Elementary School, a small, rural school in the Mount Baker School District, from 1999 to 2003. He was principal of an international school in Latvia from 2003 to 2004.
Winters also brings experience as a teacher and administrator at schools using the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. The Methow Valley School District was accepted last week as a candidate for two IB programs encompassing kindergarten through 10th grade.
Winters impressed the interview team, staff and community members because of his long experience as an elementary teacher and his administrative experience at the elementary level, said Venable.
They were also persuaded by the fact that Winters had served as principal in a small school district with an agricultural base. His familiarity with the IB framework — in particular, the primary years program for kindergarten through sixth grade — was another important factor, said Venable.
As they embarked on the search for a new principal, the district solicited input from staff and community members about the attributes they wanted to see in the next principal. “They wanted someone who is a good listener and who leads with confidence and humility. Bob had both,” said Venable.
The 14-member interview team also liked Winters’ focus on the development of the whole child, rather than prioritizing state assessments, said Venable.
The interview committee, composed of administrators, teachers, staff and community members, was also looking for someone who shared the philosophy already outlined by the district, said Venable.
In addition to teaching, Winters has coached softball and basketball and been an athletics director.
The three finalists were all strong candidates, said Venable. In the opinion of the interview team, “Winters was the right person for the position available at this moment in time to lead the work in front of us,” he said.
At the community forum on May 6, all three candidates answered the same three questions — why their background would be a good fit for Methow Valley Elementary; how colleagues, parents and students they have worked with would describe them; and how they would promote family involvement with the school.
Winters described his experience with the IB approach at two different schools as both a principal and as a teacher. At one school, the interdisciplinary component of the IB program had been particularly strong, but at the expense of reading and math, he said.
The other school emphasized literacy and math and had a good balance between those subjects and the interdisciplinary themes. One of the strengths of the program is that it can be tailored to specific needs and goals, he said.
Winters said students would say he knows and cares about them and learns along with them. Parents would say he encouraged their children in their studies, and teachers would describe him as supportive, he said.
Winters said he had been impressed by the degree of parent and community involvement with the school and would be an active participant in the district’s parent association.
Winters places an emphasis on writing. As principal, he helped plan “The Year of the Writer” at Harmony Elementary School. “Help kids get comfortable with and to embrace writing — do everything you can to encourage writing,” he told the community group.
The interview committee used feedback from the community members in making its decision.
Venable, who spent much of his career as a teacher and administrator in Bellingham before coming to the Methow Valley, said he knew and had worked closely with Winters. Venable was principal at Carl Crozier Elementary School while Winters taught fourth and fifth grades there, so he supervised him and they worked closely together, said Venable.
Venable and Winters were in the graduate program in administration together at Western Washington University. Before that they had been colleagues as teachers at two different elementary schools in Bellingham.
Venable said he told the screening committee about his professional connections with Winters but did not tell the interview team in advance.
As part of his search for a new position, Winters came to the Methow Valley during the first community meeting about the IB program in February. He subsequently contacted Venable and said he would be broadening his job hunt, which had been focused on schools abroad, said Venable.
The other two finalists, Jason Kerber and Kathleen Valenzuela, both had experience as principals at the elementary level. Both had also worked as teachers, Kerber in the fifth grade and Valenzuela in middle school.
Winters could not be reached for a comment.
Winters starts his job on July 1. There will be an event for the community to meet him in August.