Genie Wickham and Shane Stephens have something more in common than being first-year principals in the Glenwood Community School District.
For both Wickham and Stephens, Glenwood is a sort of homecoming.
Wickham is a 1985 Glenwood Community High School graduate and Stephens, also a 1985 graduate, is a Stanton native who still calls southwest Iowa home after serving as an administrator in Davenport and Perry.
“It’s a good thing to be back in the area,” Stephens said. “My Dad is in Stanton, my brother is in Stanton, I have another brother in Red Oak. It was an opportunity to see my family more.”
Wickham officially took over as principal at West Elementary School the same day Stephens moved into his offices at Glenwood Community High School on July 1.
For Wickham, the West Elementary principal job fulfills a decade-long ambition.
“It’s funny, when I was a reading consultant here a lot of people used to ask me if this was my dream job,” she said. “I think yeah, this is probably my dream job for me. Being this close to home and being able to work in a community that I’ve gotten so much from and being able to give back is exciting.”
A graduate of Buena Vista College, Wickham has over two decades of experience as a teacher and administrator at the elementary school level. After 10 years as teacher in the Council Bluffs School District, she joined the Area Education Agency as a literacy consultant. For the last six years she was associate principal at Titan Hill Elementary in Council Bluffs.
Part of Wickham’s work at the AEA was working closely with both Northeast and West Elementary. Wickham believes knowing the district, the teachers and the families gives Wickham a leg up as an administrator. She can summarize her role as principal is rather simple terms: “We have to do whatever it takes.”
“If we have to help families outside of school so we can help their kids inside the school then we have to do whatever it takes,” she went on to say.
“Hopefully that will be what teachers can feel from me when they need something. I’m going to do whatever it takes or give them whatever they need to be successful to have a big impact on their students.”
Wickham’s two daughters are both Glenwood graduates and son, Grant, is an eighth grader at Glenwood Middle School.
Wickham’s mother, Mary Sue Elsey, was a longtime West Elementary secretary. Many people have asked the new principal if Elsey will be returning to her old post to make the West office a family affair.
“Neither one of us thought we could work that closely together,” Wickham said with a laugh.
Stephens has school administration in his blood. His father was a longtime principal at Stanton High School. But, after high school, the younger Stephens chose the military instead. Stephens served 12 years in the U.S. Army Military Police in Germany, California and New Mexico before a medical discharge sidelined his military career and jump started his teaching career.
After teaching and coaching at Farragut and his alma mater, Stephens moved over to the administration side at Davenport Assumption for a year before serving the last three years as assistant principal at Perry Community High School.
The Glenwood job was attractive to Stephens for many reasons, besides the proximity to his hometown.
“I’ve always had the goal of wanting to be a high school principal in Iowa,” he said. “Glenwood is a brand new high school that is innovative in a lot of things they’re doing. They’re progressive and their location to the Omaha metropolitan area and the Council Bluffs area was a plus. It’s a really nice community.”
After officially assuming his principal duties in July Stephens spent a few a days walking around Glenwood, perusing shops and restaurants and getting to know the town.
“I didn’t let anybody know who I was,” Stephens said. “And every place I went to, the people of Glenwood were overly friendly. So friendly and so nice and so helpful. It really reminded me of why I wanted to come back to southwest Iowa. There are places that aren’t like that. Glenwood was very warm receiving me as a person. They didn’t know what my role was in the community and I was appreciative of that.”
Stephens, a father of three grown children, said much of his philosophy as a teacher and principal is owed to Horace Mann, the father of American education, and his “lifelong learning “model.
“My philosophy is infusing students with a dedicated commitment to lifelong learning,” he said. “We need to infuse students with the dedicated commitment to being lifelong learners. So when they leave Glenwood Community High School they don’t just remember a bunch of facts, dates and names, etcetera. They learned how to learn.”
Both Wickham and Stephens are still getting their feet wet in their new positions, learning names and faces and getting comfortable in their new offices. The arrival of students this week is almost a diversion from the barrage of meetings, trainings and paperwork.
It’s time to get to work.