Former Warriors Transition to HPHS administration

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This year Highland Park High School welcomed the addition of two new administrators from the World Language department at Deerfield High School. Dr. Elizabeth Robertson was previously department chair, while Matthew Wallace was a Spanish teacher and instructional technology coach. After learning about the new roles that opened at HPHS, the two went through interviews for the administrative positions within District 113. Robertson became the principal and Wallace became one of the assistant principals at HPHS.

Christine Gonzales, Director of Communications for District 113, explained the advantages that Wallace and Robertson offered to the school in their current administrative roles, and experience was an essential factor.

“The advantage of being within the district is that you know a lot about the community, you know a lot about the schools. It gives an edge and head start in comparison to everyone else,” said Gonzales.

Robertson has worked for District 113 since 2008, but her experience spans much further back. She started her career at Niles West High School as a Spanish teacher, and later became the Division Director of World Languages and
English Language Learners, and subsequently the Summer School Assistant Principal for Stevenson. This experience helped her develop more leaderships skills.

“[At Stevenson], I learned there was was something called a professional learning community, which is a different way of approaching learning. It is more of a team effort,” Robertson said.

This was a new concept at Stevenson, and Robertson was one of the key faculty members who helped establish the idea. Each of her work experiences from the various roles at different high schools have added more knowledge to her repertoire, all of this leading up to Robertson’s assistant principal role at HPHS from 2008 to 2011. This marked a change in how Robertson led students, specifically having a larger perspective on student life throughout the school.

In March of 2011, budget cuts were made which resulted in terminating administrators from each building. She was let go from her HPHS position, but there were new prospects coming. At the same time, there was a job offering for the department chair of the World Language department, and Robertson knew her experience qualified her for this experience.

“I knew that I really liked this district, and I realized that the World Language department head chair position was open. Since I had been a department chair in Stevenson and also in Niles North I thought I could apply, so I did,” Robertson said.

Her expertise and familiarity with the community helped her get the job at DHS. Robertson explained her biggest changes to follow her relocation.

“I went from overseeing many programs and other whole school types of things to monitoring a department. What I really liked about going back to [overseeing a department] was that I got to teach,” Robertson said. The nature of her job changed, but there were many things that made her new job a success.

“I really, really enjoyed being able to teach and having a homeroom and having supervision,” Robertson said. This allowed her to get to know students as a Spanish teacher on top of being the department chair. From her experience at Deerfield, she developed a greater fondness for the community. The culmination of all of her experiences led to her biggest role yet; she was going to become the principal of HPHS. Her new position came out of her exposure to the
District 113 community for so long, which made her the best fit to guide HPHS to success.

“The gift I feel I have been given in preparation for HPHS is being able to say that I have a good idea that I know the community and the values which it stand for after working in both buildings throughout ten years,” Robertson said.

Although her roles in education have been so vast throughout her career, she notes that there is one constant throughout both her DHS and HPHS experiences.

“I see one thing that is consistent. It is valuing what we do, and dedicating to our students
and their education never falters, so that is exciting,” Robertson said.

Wallace’s path to becoming Assistant Principal started differently than Robertson’s. He had been teaching in the classroom as a Spanish teacher for over 10 years, but it was his end goal to be in an administrative position after obtaining a educational leadership degree.

In Wallace’s four years at DHS, he was a hard-working Spanish teacher, as well as being an instructional technology coach for one year. This role would set him up to lead students on a broad basis, much like his job would be at HPHS.
Acknowledging how the duties of teaching instructional technology helped him at his new position, Wallace explained how his perspective changed.

“I was able to see some of the bigger picture needs and some of the bigger picture processes that were happening at the school level, so I was really able to take that instructional technology role,” Wallace said.

Being a successful leader in the classroom for the past several years gave him an edge when applying. This helped him become the assistant principal of curriculum and instruction this past year.

“As a teacher, I am still working on the lesson plans, you know quizzes and tests and instruction to enact in the classroom in a bigger picture,” Wallace said.

With so much change for Wallace, there have been constants at both locations. Being a veteran member of District 113, similar to Robertson, Wallace agrees that the community sets up its students for success.

“Great students, great teachers, and a community that expects the best for their schools who are very supportive, so not much of a change in that sense,” Wallace said.

While there has been so much change for both Robertson and Wallace, from working at the World Language department at DHS to being administrators at HPHS, one thing has remained uniform in both settings. The dedication of the students and staff is unrivaled, and both Wallace and Robertson make this clear. 2017 was filled with changes for them, but their expertise will make District 113 all the more successful.

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