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Extraordinary Leader: Susan Steen

The High Point Schools Partnership had the privilege of sitting down and talking with Susan Steen, principal of Northwood Elementary School. Native to the city of High Point, Steen has been through public schools all of her life. As a graduate of Andrew’s High School, this principal is passionate about local schools. Steen left the area only to graduate from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill before she came back to teach at Oak Hill elementary.

After 31 years as an educator, it is no surprise that Steen has shared her love for education with multiple schools. When she realized that her passion for growing students expanded past her role as a teacher Steen went on to become the Curriculum Facilitator for Morehead Elementary School. It was in this role that she felt she had a broader role when it came to impacting teachers. It was with this goal in mind that Steen obtained her Admin degree from Gardner-Webb University. From here, Steen went on to become the assistant principal of Union Hill Elementary for three years before becoming the principal of Northwood to which she is in her fourth year. 

Northwood is 1 of only 19 IB PYP, or International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme Schools, in the state of North Carolina. They are 1 of 2 schools in Guilford County that is part of IB’s Primary Years Programme. Unlike IB programs at the High School level, everyone in this school participates in this type of programming. Lessons are shaped around developing global thinkers, international mindsets, and differing perspectives with the goal of making productive citizens at the forefront of their holistic thinking.

Steen was very happy to talk about and showed great pride in their community involvement at Northwood. They are always looking for creative ways for volunteers to get involved. Volunteers from First United Methodist Church in High Point helped to revitalize the courtyard so students could have a space for outdoor learning and lunches.

As with many of our conversations recently, learning gaps as a result of the pandemic have been discussed. Steen was very hopeful as all of her teachers were implementing strategic, creative, and intentional lessons to meet the needs of each learner. Teachers are changing instruction as needed to meet the needs. As part of their IB framework, this means rewriting planners and curriculum schedules to match standards and learning themes to make learning purposeful and meaningful to produce citizens with relevant skills.

Following along with this goal, Steen has been helping to spearhead professional development courses for teachers with a college and career focus. Soon everyone will be highlighting different careers that align, in turn, with the curriculum. During the first semester of this implementation, morning announcements will be accompanied by videos that highlight different careers. The second semester will be focused on all different types of colleges. North Carolina colleges will be introduced to students that align with their desired career goals. As the IB program encourages students to be inquirers, students will develop research skills so they can investigate and learn more about different career choices. Students will take career surveys at the beginning of the year to guide them in their interests towards possible careers. Parents are also a part of this learning journey. Northwood plans on holding parent events to show them that college can be an option for their students. These sessions will be about college readiness, scholarship availability, and local programs that can help in this process. Northwood wants to teach students about all of the different futures they can have and is interested in providing the tools to get there.

Thank you Susan for sitting down and talking with us. We look forward to continuing to talk with and highlight different High Point principals and all the good going on at their school.