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Ahrens-Mininberg Works in Virtual Present, Builds Concrete Future

 

Each October is National Principals Month, as recognized by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Association of Elementary School Principals. This designation recognizes the essential role that principals play in making a school great.

 

Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) is profiling some of its principals as a part of this celebration.

 

Stacie Ahrens-Mininberg was virtual before virtual was cool.

 

Ahrens-Mininberg served as Loudoun County Public Schools’ Virtual Loudoun supervisor before becoming the principal of Douglass School in August 2019.

 

“We’ve proven that learning can happen in a building in a time-limited and calendar-limited schedule. But it also can happen 24/7 digitally. This is something I have always believed and most of the reason I worked to grow the Virtual Loudoun program and then moved to Douglass to offer students unique programming options.

 

“The digital world is very comfortable for me.” Ahrens-Minninberg made sure her staff also was comfortable in this world after LCPS moved to distance learning in March. “Each staff member experienced growth during the spring, which enabled them to be better prepared for the start of the school year.”

 

While she’s more than comfortable with virtual learning, Ahrens-Mininberg is definitely an in-person administrator. Before supervising Virtual Loudoun, she was the placement coordinator and assistant principal at Monroe Technology Center.

 

“A school building is just not the same without our learners in it. I am looking forward to the first ‘socially distanced’ lunch period to just be able to talk casually with our students again. I think the first action item will be to celebrate their return and just let each student know how very much they have been missed. I took the position at Douglass to feel the ‘pulse’ of a building again.”

 

Douglass is LCPS’ alternative secondary school. “The best part of being principal at Douglass is making connections with students who may have felt disconnected at their previous school. We are able to design programming that meets their needs and goals for graduation and personalize their instruction in a very unique way.”

 

While some classroom technology is new, Ahrens-Mininberg said that what makes education work at Douglass is very old school.

 

“Good teaching is good teaching. While our programs and credit-earning plans differ from other high schools, our core practices are the same. The teachers are personalizing the learning just as they were before. I believe we have the most flexible team in the county. Our teachers have been meeting individual learners' needs for a long time. Changing the tools by which that individualized instruction happens was a challenge, but all staff were able to make the shift. Each teacher is working to meet individual students where they are and building their skills and knowledge through a variety of digital tools.”

 

The future is something Ahrens-Mininberg thinks about a lot. Next year, she will open the new North Star School – a much larger alternative facility – on the site of the former Monroe Technology Center in Leesburg. “It is an exciting time knowing that we will open a brand-new school with expanded opportunities to offer Loudoun high school students. I am really looking forward to the new programs that will be offered at North Star. This is the work that I love to do.”

 

Keeping the Douglass community together – even while physically apart – is a challenge Ahrens-Mininberg has eagerly accepted.   

 

“Throughout the school closure in spring, we did virtual ‘Spirit Days.’ This was a bit difficult as we were not meeting with students as frequently in synchronous locations. But all staff showed their spirit to the community through video messaging and outreach. This year, we have already hosted several events where parents and students can ask questions in an ‘open house’ type of setting. I also feel like the advisory period assignments have been a very valuable tool in getting students to feel part of the school community. Lastly, our PBIS (positive behavioral interventions and support) team has been a huge support in sending positive messages regarding our impact words to ensure that all students know at Douglass we are “STARS”. S.T.A.R. represents service, trust, attitude and respect.”

 

 

 

 

Published October 27, 2020