By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published March 4, 2021
KENNESAW—Kelly Wood found herself starting a second career by overseeing a classroom of fourth graders, buzzing with excitement.
The first day was “just pure excitement and joy,” she said. “I remember that class, they were just students that were so excited about learning what we were going to do next.”
Wood has been named as the new principal for the 293-student St. Catherine of Siena School after years as a parent volunteer and then a teacher.
She moved into the principal role on March 1 after a year where traditional education was overturned by the coronavirus. Wood, 49, said the experience reinforced for her the school’s collaborative fabric, from administrators and teachers to parents and students.
“We had no idea what we were getting into. We worked together.,” said Wood. “We pulled together as a team and really found a way to do this very well.”
The school leaned on medical guidelines to open the classrooms in August with mandatory masks, physical distancing between students and keeping groups together. There remain a handful of students who are learning online. Wood said there was a spirit “to figure things out, how to do things better, how can we change things to make it more effective.”
Wood has been in front of a classroom at St. Catherine of Siena for eight years, most recently teaching science, math and enrichment. Prior to coming to the school, she taught at Big Shanty Elementary School in Cobb County for two years.
“My goal as a teacher has always been hands-on learning activities,” she said. “I am that teacher at school that every time you walk in my room you’re going to see children touching, doing, something exciting going on in the classroom.”
She ran a business in the sign industry before a teacher prodded her to study for an education degree. Wood earned it at Kennesaw State University.
She and her husband, Michael, have two children who attended the school. They worship at St. Clare of Assisi Church, Acworth.
St. Catherine of Siena Church pastor Father Neil Dhabliwala, who was part of the search committee, said he was fully supportive of the appointment. There were some 20 applicants for the position in the national search. In the end, the veteran teacher received a unanimous recommendation.
Wood “has made a profound impact on the lives of so many of our students. She has a deep love for our school and is well qualified to serve as our principal,” said Father Dhabliwala in a statement to the school community.
The previous principal was Dominican Sister Mary Cecilia Goodrum. Marlo Mong, who served as the interim principal, will return to her position as assistant principal.
Serving as principal brings together Wood’s different professional experiences, from business and administrative roles to teaching and curriculum development. Wood said “it just seemed like God was leading me down this path, these little arrows kept pointing the same way.”