• August 5, 2020

New Hays principal ‘can’t wait’ for challenge - Odessa American: ECISD

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New Hays principal ‘can’t wait’ for challenge

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Posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2020 1:19 pm

Longtime teacher, coach and administrator Paula Dannheim will be taking the helm as principal of Hays STEAM Academy starting Wednesday.

Dannheim served as Hays’ assistant principal and has been with the district for about 27 years. She worked with Principal Julie Marshall, who is set to become principal of Dowling Elementary School. Marshall starts Wednesday, as well.

STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math.

A native of Crane, Dannheim earned a bachelor of science degree in health and kinesiology from Sul Ross State University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Texas Permian Basin.

“At first, I was wanting to go into sports medicine and I ended up coaching. I coached here in the district for about 10 years. I coached girls’ volleyball, basketball and track,” she said.

After coaching, administration seemed like the natural step to take.

“I always loved the classroom. That’s really where my passion is … and then I felt like I could make a difference by becoming a curriculum coach, so I did that for a few years. And once I was comfortable with that, it just felt comfortable to be an assistant principal. I just felt like if I can take that next step and make a difference, then that’s what I need to do,” Dannheim said.

In junior high and high school, Dannheim played any sport she could find.

“I enjoyed the competition,” she said.

Her competitive spirit and coaching ability will help her when she takes on the principalship, she said.

“… If you are a coach and the kids run the play wrong, you automatically stop the play and you make corrections and do it again. You continue to practice it until that skill is refined. If you think about it, the classroom is the same way. If you make a mistake, we show you where the mistake is” and try again, Dannheim said.

She added that becoming principal at Hays is a distinction she’s proud of.

“This school has such high expectations and the academic program is so rigorous, it’s an honor to lead this group,” Dannheim said.

The campus has 30 teachers and just under 400 students in prekindergarten through fifth grade.

Dannheim had worked with Marshall for two years.

“And what’s funny is when I originally decided to go full time into the classroom and stop coaching, I began in Zavala (Elementary) and Julie Marshall was actually my mentor teacher at Zavala when I went into the classroom. So we’ve known each other for a very long time. … She’s an amazing leader,” Dannheim said.

The feeling is mutual.

“Paula is a strong leader who always makes decisions based on what is best for kids. The Hays community is blessed to have her as their leader,” Marshall stated in an email.

Alicia Press, an executive director of leadership for ECISD, said Dannheim is a gifted educator with years of faithful service to ECISD.

“She has demonstrated throughout her diverse career the ability to continue to lead Hays on the strong path that has been established,” Press said in an email. “I am looking forward to working with Ms. Dannheim as she takes on this new challenge.”

Dannheim was part of the Aspiring Leadership Academy where assistant principals acquire skills to become successful school leaders.

The COVID-19 pandemic curtailed the academy’s final project presentations, but Dannheim’s venture became a reality in the form of the emergency day care center at Zavala for the local medical community.

The closing date for the daycare center was June 26, Dannheim said in a June 25 interview.

“When we applied for licensing, it was an emergency certification so it’s only good for 60 days so the closing day is tomorrow (June 26). It’s basically two facilities in one. On my side where the ECISD kids are, we maintained about 37 students per day so we had paraprofessionals in the classrooms running that. … We had links on the lesson plans so that all they had to do was click on a link and their plans were right there for them and easy to follow,” Dannheim said.

Some children were at the center for only a few hours and others stayed for 12 to 14 hours, depending on the parents’ needs. Some parents were working 12-hour shifts.

Parents were thrilled that the district furnished the center. The district provided breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack to children while they were there.

“They loved that we provided the service. They were extremely grateful for it and we were happy to be able to provide it. It’s just one of those services that why wouldn’t you do it? That was a no-brainer. They needed it and we were there,” Dannheim said.

Dannheim said the academic program at Hays focuses on using depth and complexity in all subjects. Scholars delve into a well-rounded curriculum that includes arts, PE, science and engineering.

AVID, or Advancement Via Individual Determination is integrated throughout the campus.

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports and CHAMPS, a system of expectations that works with rules, rewards or consequences implemented the Minds in Bloom website stated.

Conscious discipline also is used to cultivate emotional intelligence through self-regulation.

“… The newest initiative that we will have this year is blended learning. Hays received a blended learning grant for grades pre-k through two. We’re really excited, but when you think about it being perhaps virtual that adds a different element,” Dannheim said.

She added that it is supposed to work better if it is face-to-face and virtual.

“It’s an approach that combines online and opportunities to interact, so basically it requires the physical presence of both the teacher and the student with some elements of online so there are elements of control over your time, place, path and pace,” Dannheim said.

In taking on Hays, she’ll at least be in familiar surroundings.

“I feel much more at ease because it’s just going to be a seamless transfer. I’ll be able to pick up right where Ms. Marshall left off and we’ll just continue building. She involved me in all the decisions, everything being rolled out so there are no surprises as far as what we’re already doing,” Dannheim said.

“I’m excited. I can’t wait,” she added.

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