• Roger Sims, Journal Staff

From paraeducator to principal, teacher hired as PVMS principal

Updated: Sep 4

LA CYGNE – A Prairie View High School business teacher who has served in various capacities with the Prairie View school district for 12 years has been selected to be the new principal of the district’s middle school.

The Prairie View USD 362 Board of Education on Monday, July 11, voted to extend a contract to Andrea Richardson to head the staff at Prairie View Middle School. She replaces Mark Meek who left following the 2021-22 school year.

Richardson first started working at PVHS as paraeducator in 2010. Although she had degrees in business education and business administration, there was a surplus of teachers at that time. To get her foot in the door at a school district, she applied and was hired as a para.

She said her two years as a para gave her great insight into working with and helping students with exceptionalities.

In 2012 a social studies teaching position opened up a the school, and she worked to become certified in that content area and was hired the August of that year. As the World Studies teacher, Richardson said she began working closely with business teacher Debbie Likely as Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) co-sponsor in addition to being a junior varsity volleyball coach and a building leadership team member.

When Likely retired in 2015, Richardson became the school’s business teacher, a post she has served in through May.

“Two things I’m most proud of is working to get Personal Finance and Financial Literacy as a graduation requirement at Prairie View High School,” she said. “This has been in place seven years now, and I believe the impact it has made on student lives is unfathomable.

“I have also coordinated four Career Days, which stemmed from an idea my former principal, Lucas Matile, and I conjured up. It involves every student and staff member in the high school, 70-plus community volunteers, and lots of man-hours. But the connection it helps students make from academics to real-world experiences is priceless.”

She said that as Career Days has developed, more of the PVHS teaching staff have become increasingly active in its production, which increases the benefits for students even more.

A graduate of Grace College, a private liberal arts school in Indiana, Richardson said she began thinking of what she wanted to do in the future after taking part in the Teacher Leader Cadre at the Greenbush education service center in Girard, Kan. That prompted her to begin working on a master’s degree in School Leadership at Baker University, a step she accomplished by December 2019.

However, in the spring 2020 semester, she and other teachers began to experience the fallout of the COVID pandemic, and she like other teachers were faced with an even greater set of obstacles to overcome. She said that because she was focused on helping students through that time, she put her pursuit of an administrator’s position on hold.

However, when the PVMS principal position came open recently, Richardson decided that this was a position she wanted. Confident she had the qualifications and skills to do the job well, she also had another reason for applying.

“I also love this district that has been my home for the last 12 years, and I am delighted to serve the Prairie View district in this capacity,” she said.

A native of Aurora, Colo., who grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, Richardson said she discovered her love of teaching, business and leadership while attending William Mason High School, the largest high school in the state of Ohio. Active in extra-curricular activities, she was class president as a junior and a senior, a manager of the school store, captain of the volleyball team and a part-time manager at a local McDonald’s.

She kept the same pace as a student at Grace College, where she earned a degree with two majors, was involved in campus activities and worked a full-time job. Richardson said she thrives on organization and time management, which should help her handle the rigors of her new post.

Despite a busy college life, it was at Grace that she met someone that would change her life.

“While in college I met Caleb, a man who shared many of the same passions and was a huge supporter of my desires to teach and lead,” she said. “Soon after college, we married and moved to Mound City, Kan., where he took a job as a pastor.” The couple has three children.

As for her approach taking over the management of PVMS, she said she has three goals:

The first is to build capacity in the staff there. “The middle school is full of awesome professionals, and I want to encourage them, advocate for them, and serve as a resource for them in utilizing their strengths and talents to do what is best for students,” Richardson said.

The second goal is to focus on math and reading scores, as well as chronic absenteeism. “COVID amplified this needed focus, and while it is not gone, we have to keep students learning and growing.”

The third goal is to build and maintain positive relationships (staff to students and students to staff), with a focus on positive social and emotional health.

She said her approach to reaching those goals is to identify the strength of the PVMS staff and use their talents and strengths to impact student learning and social and emotional growth.

“I plan to do this by setting and communicating clear expectations and communicating with my staff about what they can expect from me as a building leader, providing and receiving feedback for direction along the way,” Richardson said. “I am here for them with a common goal of doing what is best for our students.”

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