By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published January 20, 2011
The new year started off right for Queen of Angels’ principal Dr. Kathy Wood, who has been selected for a 2010 Distinguished Principal Award from the National Catholic Educational Association.
Wood is one of 12 principals chosen nationally to receive the award by the executive committee of the NCEA Department of Elementary Schools.
They were selected from a high-caliber pool of outstanding principals, each representing their archdiocese or diocese. To be considered for the honor, principals first had to be nominated by their superintendent and recommended by a peer principal, a teacher in their school, and a school parent. All have five or more years of experience as principals and are required to exhibit “a clear philosophy of Catholic education” and provide “effective faith-filled leadership,” as well as elevate their school community through their leadership.
For the Atlanta superintendent of Catholic schools, Dr. Diane Starkovich, the decision to nominate Wood was an easy one.
“Dr. Wood is not only recognized for her commitment to Queen of Angels Catholic School but also to the Archdiocese of Atlanta,” Starkovich wrote in her nomination letter. “In many ways, Dr. Wood has become the ‘go to principal’ for archdiocesan projects and committees.”
“Dr. Wood’s service on several archdiocesan committees has been invaluable,” she added.
For Wood, the award reflects as much on the quality of Queen of Angels and its entire staff as it does her own leadership. It is obvious when talking with Wood that she truly loves the Roswell school and the people who staff it. In fact, it is that staff she thanked first for the award.
“I just love going to work every day,” she said. “I have a fantastic faculty and staff that believe in the teaching/learning process and also in helping our students become lifelong learners.”
Wood started her career teaching in public schools in the Northeast. When she and her family moved to the Atlanta area from New Jersey over 20 years ago, she sent her own children to St. John Neumann Regional School in Lilburn. Wood signed up to be a substitute teacher at the school as she was anxious to begin teaching again. The principal at the time, Grey Nun of the Sacred Heart Sister Dawn Gear, eventually offered Wood a full-time position as a seventh-grade teacher, which Wood saw as a great fit for her.
“Catholic education just seemed to be the right place for me. My children were attending Catholic school and I attended Catholic school all the way up through college,” she recalled.
She noticed a difference between the public schools she had worked in and the efforts of the Catholic schools, particularly in the strong attention paid to children who were struggling, parental support and the faith environment.
“I think in the public sector there was a little less opportunity to provide appropriate direction for students who were not engaged in their education,” she said. “In the Catholic sector, you have a very solid curriculum and you have a good investment of parents in the education of their children. The best part about it for me has always been that it can be done within the context of our faith.”
From St. John Neumann she moved to St. Pius X High School to serve as the dean of students and then in 2003 to principal of Queen of Angels, a 500-student elementary school. She earned her Ph.D. in education policy studies in 2004 from Georgia State University.
Wood was also chosen as the Principal of the Year for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. This honor is bestowed on an exceptional principal who is chosen by their fellow archdiocesan principals and school leaders. She will be honored at the annual Archdiocesan Banquet for Education in February.
“I was astonished because I work with a very professional and experienced group of principals,” said Wood. “I was really very honored.”
While she began in the classroom, Wood continues to learn more about the field of education as a principal. It may have a bit of a different focus, but the same tenets apply, she said.
“As a teacher you have your class of students. When you move into administration, your class becomes your staff,” said Wood. “You are still responsible for their learning and for providing appropriate leadership for your class.”
When working as a teacher, Wood said she looked for the strengths in her students and taught to those strengths. If there was an area where she felt they needed to improve, she also addressed that. Now she applies the same philosophy to her staff, working hard to bring out the best in everyone at Queen of Angels School.
“I use those strengths to continue to move our school forward and to continue to enrich the education of the kids,” she said. “But the teaching/learning process is always in place. I learn from my faculty and my staff and I learn from my students all the time.”
She sees a bright future for the Roswell school because of the dedication of the school community as a whole. Those who work with her say her talents and skills inspire them.
“In the annual principal evaluation process, Dr. Wood’s teachers and staff describe her as ‘visionary,’ ‘top-notch,’ and ‘inspirational,’” wrote Starkovich. “They commend her for her high standards, her open-door policy, and her willingness to assist with their professional growth efforts.”
“Dr. Wood is a dedicated Catholic educator, a person of faith, a committed administrator and a well-respected principal,” she said.