CATEGORY: Teachers and Leaders

Karina Sumano Aug 9, 2018

What’s it like to be an AF principal? How did our AF principals get their start? We find out all of that and more when we sit down with AF East New York Elementary Principal Lucy Volkmar. Where did you grow up and why did you go into education? I grew up in Connecticut, near New Haven. I decided to go into education because I’ve always wanted to give back to others. When I was in my senior year of college at Washington University in St. Louis, I was majoring in psychology and I started taking a class in autism. I started working as a 1:1 therapist with a young girl. Her family was well off and had the resources to support her, and their whole world revolved around that. I saw her make tremendous growth. I was happy for her and her family, but her progress really made me think about kids who have special needs who don’t have access to the resources she did. That’s why I did Teach For America, as a special education teacher, in the Bronx for two years. What roles did you have at AF before you became principal? I started as a fourth-grade special education teacher, and then I went to first grade. I also served as the K-1 academic dean and the 2-4 academic dean. All of that was at this school, AF East New York Elementary. This is my 8th year at this school! Why AF? Why have you stayed all these years? I came here because I really wanted to be a part of a team where everyone wanted what’s best for kids, and where I was going to grow even if I was already doing OK. I took the offer here and never looked back. I love the team, I love the community, and I love that I am pushed to grow and develop. It is amazing to work with my former student’s siblings, and to see kids now in high school come back to visit. How did AF develop you as a leader so you could be an effective principal? I have been a principal-in-residence, a coach, a dean and a people leader. I also went to Relay Graduate School of Education. But I think the biggest thing has been the commitment to people, emotionally intentional leadership, and meeting the needs of a large team. That feels unique. What do you love most about being a principal? I love knowing all the kids. My favorite part of the day is greeting them. When I was a teacher, I had really deep relationships with kids in my classroom, and as a dean and a principal, I have that relationship with way more kids. Now instead of having one classroom, I have 18. And one bonus question… what’s one fun fact many people might not know about you? I can speak Italian! I minored in it in college. That’s amazing! Thanks for sharing, Lucy. We'll see you for Back to School next week!

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Karina Sumano

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