- Loudoun County Public Schools
Mihalik Lives the Definition of Community School
Dr. Gregory Mihalik, who opens the 2022-23 school year as the principal of Sugarland Elementary School, knows the crucial role his school plays in the community.
“We truly are a community school. We are the central hub of activity.”
Mihalik, who served as Sugarland’s assistant principal for four years, succeeds Dr. Gail Brady, who accepted a principalship in Winchester.
Mihalik understands the unique needs of the families Sugarland serves.
“Because we have a lot of families who have just moved to this country, we help them connect to the services they need. In so many ways, we are the connecting point. We are the institution families trust.”
Mihalik said Sugarland’s staff helps families find a dentist, doctor, food and transportation. “When we did our computer distribution for families, it was the first time many of them had a computer in the home. We are the central connection to get things that can help their family and children. We have to hold ourselves responsible for providing them with everything they need and deserve. They are not aware of all of the support and services available.”
The extra services provided are much appreciated, Mihalik added.
“Our families are so appreciative, trusting and supportive. They might not be able to volunteer in the classroom every day, but when we have events we get unbelievable turnout. They are eager to be here and take part in any way they can. If we hold a faculty basketball game, we’ll have a line out the door.”
Mihalik said every staff member at Sugarland shares in the mission of community service.
“We really have an ‘all-in’ approach here at Sugarland. Our teachers take the lead on many things and communicate so well.
“We focus on the concept of students first. Getting our students absolutely whatever it is they need. Focusing on how we can connect them – especially coming out of the pandemic – not just concentrating on academics, but social and emotional needs. Getting them involved with clubs and activities, summer camps.”
The pandemic provided a lot of useful information that Mihalik said can be used to shape future educational practices.
“It shook us up. We always underestimated the abilities of what kindergartners and first-graders could do in terms of technology. Who would have thought you would have been able to have a kindergartener log on to a Google Meet and Schoology, responding to teachers and using a laptop, not only responding, but participating?
“It required us to do everything in a different way and now we can incorporate some of those things into what we do here daily.”
Away from school, Mihalik, a former football player, is an avid runner.
“I feel like it connects with my philosophy of education. I’m going to lose to at least a thousand people in that race, but if I was able to improve, if I was able to get better, I’m proud of my growth in that way. That’s the approach we have for all our students; get a little better each day, set goals.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not about starting and doing everything in one day.”
Published August 3, 2022