At an age when her friends are starting to retire, Susan Anderson on Friday excitedly began something of a new career path – without even switching desks.
Anderson, who turns 60 next month, was named principal at Lewis and Clark Elementary School in Missoula.
Superintendent Alex Apostle made the announcement.
“It’s quite an honor,” said Anderson, who has been serving as interim principal since Jack Sturgis retired at the end of the 2012-13 school year. “It’s something I’ve worked for. It’s a new and different challenge, and I have lots of energy – I’m not ready to retire.”
The new principal is one of the best-known faces at Lewis and Clark. Before taking over as interim principal, Anderson taught at the school for 27 years.
“And it goes back farther than that,” she said. “I was a student here from first through eighth grade. That’s why it’s such an honor. Lewis and Clark has been near and dear to my heart for a long, long time.”
Apostle referenced that in his announcement, saying, “Susan is an outstanding educator who will continue to honor the school’s outstanding history and culture.”
She is the seventh principal in the school’s 60-year history.
Anderson and the Lewis and Clark staff are already hard at work as the school seeks to become an International Baccalaureate, or IB, school in the 2014-15 school year.
“It’s about creating a place where students are exposed to a second language, celebrate diversity and helps prepare them to be part of a global society,” Anderson said. “They learn about their community, their country and the extended world. It’s a wonderful way for kids to learn.”
A language advisory committee is researching potential second languages, and Anderson said suggestions that have come to it have ranged from the traditional such as French or Spanish, to computer coding.
“It will be a staffwide decision, and we’ll use the exposure model, not the immersion model,” Anderson said.
The immersion model, she explained, has students strictly speaking the language for part of the school day; the exposure model encompasses both language and culture into classrooms, with some of the exposure being to vocabulary and terminology.
Anderson came to Lewis and Clark in 1960 as a first-grader – there was no kindergarten then – and just six years after it first opened its doors.
A school that served grades 1-8 back then, it’s now a K-5 elementary school with approximately 500 students.
Its new principal earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Montana. She spent her first three years teaching in central Montana, at schools in Lewistown and Belt, before being hired by the Missoula district.
Her first job in Missoula was at the old Central School (now home to the MCT Center for the Performing Arts) and she went from there to Mount Jumbo Elementary.
“When there was an opening at Lewis and Clark I applied, and I’ve been here ever since,” said Anderson, who taught first and fifth grades during the last 27 years at L-C. “I’m truly a teacher at heart, but I like seeing the big picture. Working with kids has been a joy in my life. Day in and day out, it’s a way to make a difference.”
Becoming principal, she added, is just a new way to continue that.
“A lot of my friends are retiring,” she said, “but I’m very excited to be starting a new path.”