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District Admin of the Year: Ms. Kamstra!
Posted 5/25/18


Ms. Kamstra and student leadership

Ms. Kamstra was awarded the "District Admin of the Year"! Here are some wonderful words from Team Chameleon about what an amazing person Ms. Kamstra is:


Is highly competent:   

Our school opened nearly 2 years ago under the direction of our nominee. Her selection as founding principal, her vision, and the drive to start a school and see it come to life are examples of her high level of competence. She attends professional development alongside her staff and on her own. She stays up-to-date on the latest research in education, pedagogy, and child development (see below). She is involved at the district level through her collaboration with other principals, her position on the negotiating team, and her ongoing work with facilities and bond as she sees our construction project through and guides others (primarily Agnews) through the process of developing additional new schools to meet the needs of a fast-growing community. Her thoughtfulness and dedication provide a work environment that is supportive of the passions and needs of all her certificated and classified staff.


Keeps abreast and updates knowledge in his/her field:   

Not only is she a stellar principal, but she also keeps current on pedagogy, attending professional development that is in line with the needs of the staff and the vision of our school. In the year before our school opened, our leader devoured mountains of research on best practices in pedagogy, including blended learning, flexible learning environments, student-centered learning, and Project-Based Learning, developing the vision for our journey. Along with most of our staff, she attended summer training  in PBL (year 1) and Responsive Classroom (year 2), and she was a member of the first administrator cohort at the STEAM/PBL practicum at Bullis Charter School. Subsequently she sent the entire staff to the teacher cohort of the practicum the following year and held down the fort while every teacher was off campus for 9 days of training throughout the year. In addition to her copious reading, much of her knowledge comes from her superpower, which is listening to, supporting, and trusting the teachers she leads. In our second year, we have 5 teachers participating in the Tech Fellowship, 3 teachers on the district Math Leadership team, and a representative from each grade level on our Listening and Learning team, which she initiated to allow staff input into critical school issues and to ensure a voice to all members of staff.            


Is an outstanding administrator, certificated or classified employee:                   

Our leader arrives at school early and leaves late. She takes genuine interest in the lives of her staff, knowing the names of each of our spouses and children. Her door is always open for her staff, both when there is a problem she can help solve by listening and coaching, or when we have a joy we want to share. If a need arises, she is available by text or email with an almost instant reply. She visits our classrooms at least once weekly, is out at yard duty every recess and lunch, and knows the name of every student on campus (and most of the parents as well).  She knows and is supportive of staff members’ passions and does what she can to assist us in bringing those into the classroom. When she enters a classroom, teachers do not feel like they are being observed or critiqued. She values the professionalism of her staff and makes that value known any chance she gets. She walks her own truth, dealing with every person she meets--student, staff member, parent, colleague--with integrity and care.


Is dedicated to the job, loyal to school and the district/Contributes to district programs by serving on committees/Is highly respected by peers:   

In addition to her long hours serving the students, families, and staff at our school, this nominee has served on every committee that the district offers her, including: the Agnews development,  interview committees, the district bargaining team, and the Labor-Management partnership. She sought the opportunity and then dedicated a whole year to the planning and vision of our school. Other principals in the district, as well as people in district leadership, have the utmost respect for her, and she numbers many of these folks among her friends. She welcomes board members, the superintendent, and other district leaders to our school. Each year as open enrollment begins, we have numerous parent tours, and she patiently answers parent questions and proudly shows off the gifts of the teachers on her staff. She is incredibly supportive of every staff member;  when problems arise, she handles situations with dignity and grace. Parents and our greater school community find her approachable and non-judgmental. In a multicultural area, our leader has created a culture of inclusion, recognizing that “it takes a village” to care for our children. On our staff, no one is greater or less; our custodians, administrative staff, and paraeducators work alongside our teaching staff to make a difference in the lives of our children, and that is all thanks to her vision and her ongoing work to make it a reality. Within the district, she has enlisted community support and students from other schools, building connections with middle- and high-school teachers including the art teacher, woodshop teacher, and sign language teacher at Santa Clara High School. She promoted our participation in the Career-Technical Education path by connecting our garden committee and its vision with students and teachers in the district’s culinary programs and with gardening groups at other district schools.


Is consistent in performance above and beyond job requirements/Models correct examples to students and fellow workers:                           

Our principal leads by example. Professionally, she models what she expects  in her employees, and we strive to be like her. She is scrupulously conscious of everyone’s time, being concise and clear in meetings and providing information in written form by text or e-mail so that we can spend meeting time collaborating as a whole staff and in our grade-level teams. For her, relationships come first: colleagues’ relationships with her and with each other, teachers’ relationships with their students, and students’ relationships with each other are given constant opportunities to grow. She performs every administrative task with fidelity and integrity--SST and IEP meetings, disciplinary interactions with students, and teacher observations, to name a few. She follows up, she follows through, and she checks in. Her founding vision was to make JOY the core value of our school, and she truly makes it a happy place for all stakeholders. She makes sure that our souls are nurtured as well as our minds and that everyone feels welcome. Our school currently has nine student teachers, and several members of our classified staff have begun the credentialing process, demonstrating that our leader makes teaching a truly remarkable and inspiring career. With students, she uses interactive modeling of expectations. When out on the playground (in other words, during every student break), her voice is always calm, she is always mindful of doing the right thing, and--as is central to our school vision--she allows students voice and choice, collaborating with them in developing our school rules.


Works for the betterment of students and staff/Gives service to school, district and/or community:

Our leader promotes leadership within grade levels and within students, engaging students in solidifying our school rules as mentioned above. This year, she has instituted weekly school-wide morning meetings as we continue to roll out the tenets of Responsive Classroom at our school, creating a more cohesive community and allowing opportunities for student leadership. She checks in daily with students after morning walk, right at the start of the day. She has been instrumental in starting our PTA. She constantly seeks new opportunities for after-school and recess activities, such as sports, chess, and a variety of arts and robotics classes. She works with our webmaster to make sure that our website is up-to-date and is used as a primary school-parent communication tool, following up with weekly e-mails. She makes sure staff is updated weekly on upcoming meetings, professional development, and other school events. Our leader continues our site’s participation in the annual Santa Clara Art and Wine festival. She has encouraged parents to contribute such new traditions as family game nights and Comedy Sportz. She attends every school site council and PTA meeting, and she attends and is engaged at every IEP and leads SST meetings in a positive, team-oriented way, both as the administrator and as a skillful meeting leader and empathetic listener.


In conclusion, her staff is in awe of her. She makes each of us want to be our best self. She walks her truth,  inspires us to be better, and sees the best in everyone. When groups set norms for interacting with each other, they frequently mention, “Assume positive intentions.” That rule is unspoken with our nominee--she assumes positive intentions with everyone she meets and in every interaction she makes. She truly makes our school a joyful place to work and to learn.