Phoenix, OR — Since it’s after Labor Day and everyone in the area is back in school, we’re dropping by local schools to highlight people making a difference in students’ lives.
In part one of our back-to-school series, we caught up with the principal of Phoenix Elementary School who’s entering her 19th year as an educator in the Rogue Valley.
“I just hope that people know that as educators, these schools are full of people who really truly care about kids,” said Phoenix Elementary principal Shawna Schleif.
When principal Schleif first started teaching in the Rogue Valley, she wore a few different hats.
Her first gig in Southern Oregon was at Phoenix High School in 2005 as a math, wood shop and computer teacher.
“I’ve loved the path that I’ve been on in education and working with elementary students is it’s just extremely edifying,” Schleif said.
Principal Schleif’s career as an educator includes stops as the assistant principal at Phoenix High and Talent Middle School, as well as the principal at Orchard Hill Elementary.
This year marks her fifth year as principal at Phoenix Elementary and 19 years overall in the Rogue Valley.
“What I love about this district specifically, too, is that it’s small enough that people know each other,” Schleif said. “And so, it really feels like a family. And I know people say that all the time, it feels like a family, but it actually truly does.”
Dianne Wolff, longtime colleague and friend of principal Schleif, remembers when they talked about the principal opening at Phoenix Elementary and how Schleif was questioning if she’d be a good fit.
After watching her friend grow and thrive in various roles, Wolff had zero doubts.
“I think she was questioning and wondering, but she’s never turned away an opportunity to do the hard things and to challenge herself,” Wolff said. “So I said, absolutely. I think this is something that you should do.”
And 19 years in, Schleif’s mindset has never changed.
She says in this industry no matter what you do, your job matters to people. And that’s what keeps her going to this day.
“It’s hard work for sure,” Schleif said. “And at the same time, it’s really gratifying and fun and challenging at times, but I’m really proud to be an educator.”
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