With teachers already reporting for work back in August and students just days away from kicking off the fall semester, first-time principal Savannah Demeester was hired to lead West Madison Elementary School, one of Madison City’s seven elementary schools.
Though Demeester’s first few months as the school’s principal have been anything but traditional, she says with confidence that she has been living out her dream job and couldn’t be prouder to be a Wildcat.
A former assistant principal at Rainbow Elementary, Demeester says that she was “excited about the opportunity to influence both students and staff” and that she knew her influence could be wider as a principal.
When asked about her leadership style, she shared that she strives every day to be a servant leader.
“I don’t ever want any of my teachers or staff thinking that anything I’m asking them to do is something that I wouldn’t do myself.
Throughout my time spent talking with Demeester, there was one common denominator in every angle of our conversation, and that’s how incredibly proud she is of the teachers at her school.
“We have gone over the top at least once a week all semester long to motivate our teachers because they deserve it. We have tried really hard to continually keep morale up at West Madison.”
Telling teachers how appreciated they are is something she never tires of doing.
“We are begging people to show teachers how much they’re appreciated. Being noticed for all of the work they’re doing behind the scenes means everything to them.”
She continued to say that teachers have been at the school during the evenings and on weekends working extra hard to make sure everything is in order for students and parents.
Demeester encourages parents to share kind words with a teacher if he or she has made a positive impact in their child’s life or did something extra special.
“Teachers will literally print those emails and hang them on the wall; That’s how much they mean to them.”
The teachers and staff aren’t the only ones that Demeester says have made her first semester at the school a dream. She also can’t say enough about the students and their parents.
The semester has been an unpredictable one, with the start being 100% virtual for all students, then transitioning into in-person for some and virtual for others, and then most recently transitioning to a hybrid schedule. Through all of the changes, learning curves, and ups and downs, Demeester shared that parents have been so understanding and supportive.
“I honestly don’t get complaints about the schedule changes,” she shared. “It’s been shocking in the best way.”
She continued to say that it has meant so much to the teachers at West Madison when parents have tried to understand and be supportive of all that they’re juggling.
As far as the students at West Madison go, Demeester says “they’re thriving”.
“Kids are the most resilient,” she shared. “They just do what their peers do. I thought that I’d constantly have to remind kids to wash their hands and pull up their masks, but that’s all been a non-issue.”
Another pleasant surprise for Demeester about this first semester is that discipline issues have nearly been non-existent.
With a laugh, she says “I don’t get it! It’s not just our school, but all principals across the district have been citing how well behaved students have been this year.”
When asked how she stays to positive during a year that many envision has to be a brutal year to take over as a leader, Demeester says that she tries to stay focused on the bigger picture.
“Of course these decisions are hard, but most of them are above me. In fact, most of them are above our district. It’s hard to collectively be going through this, but we really are all in this together.”
She says that the students at West Madison are constantly top of mind and that they deserve the best.
“I can choose to be bogged down at the world’s circumstances or I can choose to make the best of today. I always think about that.”
When asked what her favorite part of being a principal is, she says that it’s her daily interactions within the school that she loves the most. She also loves the ability she has to be a positive influence.
“I try to leave every situation better than I found it. I also try really hard to let everyone know that I see them.”
When West Madison Elementary School closes at the end of this school year, Demeester will take over as the first principal at brand new Midtown Elementary.
“I can’t wait to get more kids and widen that influence,” she says when asked what she’s most looking forward to about Midtown.
“Once you are in West Madison, you feel a positive energy, and I really hope to carry that legacy and feeling over to Midtown and make that energy even bigger.”
In conclusion, Demeester offers a message to parents who may be tired, frustrated, or confused about what’s happening within the schools here in Madison.
“We are doing our absolute best and giving these kids the best learning experience we can.”
She continued to say that “our district is forward-thinking. COVID or not, we are still striving every day to meet the high expectations we’ve always had.”
“This is not a year off for us or these students. Always know that we are working hard.”
Demeester is married and a mother to two children, ages 4 and 2. She grew up in Madison, attended Madison City Schools all the way through, and then returned after college to teach 1st, 3rd, and 5th grades in the system. She also served as a MAAP (Madison Aspiring Administrator Program) before taking over as Assistant Principal at Rainbow, and then Principal at West Madison.
If you’d like to send an email to Savannah Demeester, click here!
To learn more about Madison City Schools, click here.