Ahrens-Mininberg Gets Job She’s Always Wanted

 

Stacie Ahrens-Mininberg, the new principal of Douglass School, said that being the principal of Loudoun County’s alternative secondary school has always been a goal for her. She achieved that goal on August 8th following the retirement of Marianne Turner.

 

“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity my whole career. I wanted to be in a place that created systems that did good things for kids; created good environments for kids.”

 

Ahrens-Mininberg said she feels a kinship with Douglass’ students from her high school career. “I tell people all the time, I was a non-traditional learner. I worked most days after school and on weekends. I was a really good test-taker, so I kept my grades up, but I never did any homework. I always felt like, if I had mastered the curriculum, why did it matter if I did assignments? It helps me relate to students who choose non-traditional paths.”

 

Choosing a non-traditional path doesn’t mean a student has done anything wrong, she added. “It’s a choice. I’ve told our students that I’ve met that it’s a privilege to come to Douglass…It’s about being in an environment that is smaller than the traditional setting.”

 

Ahrens-Mininberg said she is impressed with the amount of school spirit at Douglass. “I could not believe the enthusiasm.”

 

During her short tenure at Douglass, Ahrens-Mininberg has asked students what they know about the school, why they want to come there and their goals for the future. After that conversation, she tailors what Douglass has to offer to each student’s needs. “Whether they want to accumulate credits faster or pursue a GED or just take regular core curriculum.”  

 

Personalized learning will be stressed at Douglass. This concept will encompass the faculty as well as the students, said Ahrens-Mininberg. “If I’m going to expect teachers to be teaching in a personalized-learning way, I want to present professional development in a personalized-learning way. I want teachers to have ‘voice and choice’ as well.”

 

Ahrens-Mininberg said teachers may choose individualized teaching strategies that best align with their strengths. “I want the teachers to really hone the skills and strategies that they do best. I also want them to share those as professional-development lessons for their fellow faculty.”  

 

The new principal wants to have a culture and climate for her building that allows students and teachers to take risks and feel supported and successful.

 

She stressed that the principal will be learning as well. “I’m the one who’s going to be learning something new at Douglass. I want to see what is in existence and what opportunities for improvement exist, and gain stakeholder input and community input. The most important part is to listen to people. You’re not always going to love what folks have to say, but you have to hear input from everybody.”

 

Ahrens-Mininberg’s career has been devoted to alternative forms of education. Since beginning her LCPS career, she has served as a special education teacher at Broad Run High School, Monroe Technology Center and Woodgrove High School; as the placement coordinator and assistant principal at Monroe; and as Virtual Loudoun education supervisor. “It’s a unique opportunity for students to either supplement their curriculum or take courses online to build in an early release,” she said of Virtual Loudoun (the program grew 183 percent during the past three years under Ahrens-Mininberg’s guidance).

 

“It’s a very unique program that creates possibility in a student’s schedule.”

 

Ahrens-Mininberg is looking forward to 2021, when Douglass will move its programs to the new North Star School on the site of the former Monroe Technology Center in Leesburg. She said opening the new facility will feel like closing a circle. “I have grown as a teacher there. I grew as an administrator there.

 

“It feels like a full-circle event for me.”

 

 

08/29/19/wbb