By Brian Rosemeyer
Sun Sailor Newspapers
On March 4 District 281 Superintendent Aldo Sicoli recommended Christina Hester to assume the role of principal at Cooper High School in New Hope following Michael Favor’s move to Executive Director of Student Services and Secondary Schools at the district office.
While Hester is Cooper’s new principal, she is a familiar face to many District 281 students and families.
Hester, from California originally, moved to the Midwest to begin a career in college basketball coaching. She said she got the itch to begin teaching academically and earned her teaching license from Bethel University.
She began student teaching at Cooper High School in 1993 and moved between a number of different roles within the district as she built her career.
Hester taught at Hosterman Elementary, Highview Alternative Program, was principal at Robbinsdale Middle School and became associate principal at Cooper under Favor.
She left 281 to become principal at Skyview Middle School in North St. Paul and, following Sicoli’s recommendation, will return to District 281 as principal of Cooper beginning July 13.
Hester said she is excited to come back to the district she calls her “educational home.”
Q: What do you like about Cooper?
A: The people are awesome, I love the kids and the staff is great. It oozes that family atmosphere where kids know they are there to go to school. The warmth within the building is like no other.
Kids talk to each other and groups mix; they don’t isolate themselves. It’s a great opportunity to fill some big shoes, and to work with Mike [Favor] again because he will be my supervisor at the district office.
I want to grow Cooper into something bigger and better than it already is.
Q: Why do you consider District 281 your ‘educational home?’
A: It’s the people and the families. When you talk about staff who get it, and when you work with the large diverse community, you have people working together to do the best for the families and students of the district, regardless of who they are. That, to me, is just so critical in education.
Cooper is at 61 percent kids of color and 57 percent kids of poverty, you have to want to be there. You have to say ‘I signed up for this because I believe so much in the students in the building, and I want to make it the best I can.
Working at Hosterman and Highview really gave me an idea that this is what education is all about.
Q: How is your experience as associate principal of Cooper going to play into your new role?
A: I think the pre-established relationships that I have with staff are a huge deal. It’s a different role, being principal versus AP, but with staff and kids, it helps that they know who I am and where I’m coming from.
I’m hard, but I’m fair. It’s very important that kids know and understand what is expected of them. Our expectations are high and we’re going to hold them to that.
And if they don’t live up to that, we’re going to figure out how we get them there. We’re not just going to say ‘just do what you want to do,’ that’s not a part of the plan.
As an AP, I met with teams of teachers on a daily basis and the freshman class, when I was there, is now the senior class at Cooper, and they are leaving a legacy like non other.
We have built-in rigor at Cooper, but we’re going to give them the support they need to be successful.
Q: What can you say about Michael Favor?
A: What can’t I say? Mike came into the district when I was an AP at Robbinsdale Middle School, and I got to know him there.
He is a gentle giant. He is a man who understands what a building needs; from the adults down to the kids. He knows how to pull things out of people that they didn’t think were there, as far as full potential.
It’s not being critical about who students are, and critical of what they’re not doing. It’s about encouraging and acknowledging the good things and saying ‘hey, I love this, have you thought about that?’ And that’s the stuff that Mike does.
I’ll definitely be applying all that I learned from Mr. Favor.
Q: Where are some areas that you hope to improve at Cooper?
A: Every time I hear that question I say, ‘well, can I get there first?’ It’s a high school of 1,800 kids. You can talk about test scores all you want, it’s only snapshot of a day. But talking about the academic piece for kids and focusing on instruction and giving them the best possible.
That, to me, is an observation of teacher practice and classroom practice and seeing how we can make it better. Because, no matter where you go, classroom instruction has to get better, but that classroom gets better based on the relationship teachers build with kids.
When you ask ‘what is there to improve?” I think education and classroom instruction is always on the rise of improvement. And also, teachers working together and being more collaborative in what they do. And building a community of adult learners that trickles down into students being stronger learners. That’s probably where I’m first going to start.
Q: What do you like about the leadership role of being principal at a school, what does it mean to you?
A: I love it because, as a classroom teacher, I found that I was effective. And when you’re effective and you’ve got 150 kids, its good. If I’m impacting 150 kids on a yearly basis, that’s pretty cool.
If you’re and administrator and you develop three teachers who have 150 kids, you just now impacted 450 kids indirectly because of the work you’ve done with teachers. That what I love about being a principal. It’s having an impact on adults and building them up as better educators and leaders to have an impact on their students.
Cooper has over 120 staff, so if I impact 10 of those people and they each have 150 kids, you do the math. It’s phenomenal. And it’s only because it’s about giving kids the access, the hope and a future about what they can be and what they want to grow to be.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: I would say I’m one of those people who, if I don’t know you, introduce yourself. There are some people I do know, but I want to know everyone. I still have some connections with families, but I want new families to know not to be afraid of coming up to me.
I’m always open to meeting people and knowing faces. Don’t be shy, my door is always open.
Contact Brian Rosemeyer at [email protected]