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Westgate Elementary in F.C. Welcomes Principal Kindelan

dianasclassroomThis year Westgate Elementary School on Magarity Road in the greater Falls Church section of Fairfax County is celebrating a new beginning with the hiring of school principal, Julie Kindelan. What makes this special is that it comes in the continuity of the special honors that the school, and its highly diverse student body, has received in recent years.

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Westgate Elementary School’s new principal, Julie Kindelan, assists students Noor Singh (right) and Negeena Azad (left) in Melissa Hosey’s fifth-grade classroom. (Photo: News-Press)

 

This year Westgate Elementary School on Magarity Road in the greater Falls Church section of Fairfax County is celebrating a new beginning with the hiring of school principal, Julie Kindelan. What makes this special is that it comes in the continuity of the special honors that the school, and its highly diverse student body, has received in recent years.

Following in the footsteps of Juanita Harris, Westgate’s previous principal of 21 years, Kindelan is familiar with school operations, having previously served as assistant principal for five years. During her time at Westgate and with Harris, Kindelan says she learned to “focus on the students and make learning a priority.”

Maintaining strong focus will play an integral role, especially in continuing Westgate’s earning of recent recurring honors. For the past three years, Westgate has received the Commonwealth’s prestigious Governor’s Award for Education Excellence.

According to the Virginia Department of Education website, the Governor’s Award is the highest honor under the Virginia Index of Performance (VIP) incentive program. Created by the Board of Education, the program advances Governor Kaine’s “competence to excellence” agenda, encouraging advanced learning and achievement in the Commonwealth’s public schools.

The school’s student body is 29 percent Asian and Pacific Islander and 25 percent Hispanic.

It seems Kindelan’s work is cut out for her, but one thing is certain: The school’s foundation remains strong, built on their three basic tenants.

The entire school community is held to the principles of “The Westgate Way.” These three straight forward ideals include: “Respect Myself, Respect Others and Respect Property.”

The importance of respect and a sense of community and their critical role in the educational environment were already well-known to Kindelan as she grew up with a seasoned educator. Her mother experienced the educational process first hand.

As a reading specialist for over 20 years at All Saints’ Academy in Florida, Kindelan’s mom readily supported her daughter’s decision to pursue a career in education. “She loved it, because she too is a teacher,” said Kindelan.

Originally from Winter Haven, Fla., where she attended high school, Kindelan continued her education at Florida Southern College, receiving a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

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(Photo: News-Press)

 

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. During my childhood, I was often playing school and knew I wanted to teach and lead teachers,” said Kindelan.

Elementary education is an important stage in the educational process. Kindelman feels that those are crucial years for a child’s development.

“Elementary school children are at the prime of education. These are the most formative years,” said Kindelan.

After earning her bachelor’s degree, Kindelan ventured to the Commonwealth to teach at Fairhill Elementary School and work on her Masters degree in educational leadership through the Virginia Tech Northern Virginia Center.

Moving to Northern Virginia, she found it to be quite different from her home town and a welcome change.

“Winter Haven is a small town in Central Florida. Northern Va. is bustling and very diverse,” said Kindelan.

In fact, Westgate Elementary School’s ethnicity profiles for 2008 – 2009, as listed by the Fairfax County Public School website, is quite diverse. The numbers show Westgate’s Asian or Pacific Islander population at 29 percent, Black (not of Hispanic origin) at 8 percent, Hispanic 25 percent, White (not of Hispanic origin) 32 percent and Other at 6 percent.

Kindelan describes Westgate as “a diverse community focused on student learning and developing the whole child. Learning is our first priority, teachers collaborate with each other and we focus on results.”

As a teacher, Kindelan worked in education for 10 years gaining experience and insight, while teaching kindergarten and 6th grade before deciding to make the switch to administration.

“I always wanted to lead a school. I love working with teachers, students, parents and the greater school community. I wanted to make a difference that went beyond the classroom and influenced the entire school community,” said Kindelan.

As principal and someone who leads by example, Kindelan is continuing her education; she is now working towards her doctorate degree in educational leadership, also through Virginia Tech.

While Kindelan increases her personal educational qualifications, the school community of Fairfax County continues to increase in population.

“We are growing. Two years ago, we had about 330 students and this year we have 502. Families are moving into the area for various reasons,” said Kindelan.

Of course, one of the reasons for the influx may be due to the renowned quality of the local school system.

“The Northern Virginia education system is one of the best in the nation. It is impressive the amount of resources and support for parents, teachers and students,” said Kindelan.

Although still remarkable, due to the economic downturn the amount of resources provided to Fairfax County Schools has been impacted.

It seems as education budgets get cut, student supply lists appear to grow longer.

While Westgate’s published student school supply list includes newer, but reasonable items like Clorox cleaning wipes, facial tissue and hand sanitizer, it is not nearly as demanding as some other Fairfax County school requirements.

For example, Clermont Elementary School, also a Fairfax County Public School, requires various grade level students to buy items such as “1 ream of white copier paper, 4 lithium AA size batteries, 1 package of motivational stickers and a 4 pack of dry erase markers of 2 or 3 different colors.”

On the elementary school supply list parents are also reminded that their child must “bring an old sock to erase on dry erase boards/chalk boards.”

Although times are difficult financially, economic strife does not affect Kindelan’s enthusiasm for her school.

“It is inspiring every day I come to work. The teachers work extremely hard and the students work hard to meet high expectations. We have a very supportive parent community.”

Parents play an integral role in the educational process. In her new position as principal Kindelan wishes to convey a simple message to every one of her student’s parents. It is the importance of a basic task, reading.

“Reading is the key to learning. In the lower grades, students are learning to read and in the upper grades, students are reading to learn. The more we read the better we become. Read, read, read,” said Kindelan.

Working together as a community, Kindelan plans to continue the school’s history of forging bright futures for its many diverse students.