During her first week as principal of Westview in the fall of 2017, Principal Tina Ziegler said that she felt overwhelmed yet excited. Just a few weeks prior to the beginning of a new school year, she had been given the task of revising a master schedule and planning events for Welcome Week. When Welcome Week arrived, Ziegler greeted many students, which she said gave her a sense of eagerness to connect with them.
“When I left Westview [after Welcome Week], I knew a lot of the student body,” Ziegler said. “I quickly realized that I needed to make it a priority to get to know the students, and the staff who I had not worked with.”
Ever since her first Welcome Week, connecting with students has been a priority for Ziegler. One way Ziegler connects with students is through greeting them at the crosswalk outside of school each morning.
“Greeting students at the sidewalk is one of my favorite parts of the day,” Ziegler said. “I believe it’s important that students know who I am, and that I care about them. One way is by starting off the morning with a quick hello and wishing them a good rest of the day.”
Additionally, Zielger also prioritizes forming a bond with her staff and community members. Ziegler said that this has been the biggest challenge she has faced in her four years of being principal at Westview.
“The biggest challenge that I have faced prior to the first 16 months, was establishing the relationships with staff and community. It was important to me, to ensure the staff that I value shared decision making and was looking forward to working collaboratively on issues that arise. I have an open door policy and value the time that I get to talk with our students, staff and community members. This has been a difficulty for me, as allowing time for personal connections can be challenging when we are planning big events, or building the master schedule,” said Ziegler.
Ziegler said that she enjoys working with high school students, as she feels it is a pivotal time for teenagers to discover their interests.
“Teenagers are trying to find their identity, exploring different curriculum and extra-curricular [activities],” she said
Ziegler said that the biggest hurdle she has faced in her four years has been finding the time to make sure she is able to balance her duties as a principal while maintaining a strong relationship with the student body.
“At a large comprehensive high school, there are many operational issues that need attention that keep me away from getting into the classrooms,” Ziegler said.
Furthermore, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a challenge Ziegler has faced is fostering a sense of community while in a virtual environment.
“At the beginning of the pandemic last March, I was often the only one on campus,” Ziegler said. “I missed the chatter of students, the laughter, the hallways filled with sounds. I missed greeting the students at the crosswalk and checking in on support staff and teachers face-to-face.”
Despite the challenges she has been faced with, Ziegler said that she always attempts to unify students and staff members when working towards goals.
“I definitely have focused on what Westview was built on and that is the Wolverine Way and CARE. I have focused on the importance of collective efficacy. It can have a huge impact on student learning when the adults on campus collectively work together on common goals and know that what they do makes a difference,” said Ziegler.
Since students have been lacking connections this school year, Ziegler said she turned her attention towards creating an environment where students feel comfortable learning individually.
“Westview was built on putting an emphasis on connections,” she said. “We know that when students feel connected to the teacher, their peers and the class material, they will be more successful in high school and beyond. My role is to ensure that we continue to place an emphasis on this core value. From the moment our freshmen step on this campus, our staff greet them with a tunnel of cheers as we welcome them in the gym.”
Given the circumstances everyone has faced over the past year, Ziegler said she is proud of the accomplishments the students and staff have made but that she is especially proud of the class of 2021.
“The class of 2021 is a special class to me,” Ziegler said. “They were the first group of freshmen that I had the opportunity to greet and welcome into Westview. Throughout the years [the class of 2021] has been active on many global issues. These seniors have faced more isolation, more disappointments than any other group of students in modern history and they have shown remarkable resilience. They have shown great care for one another and the school.”
Despite the drastically different high school experience students have encountered in the past year, Ziegler said that she looks forward to the coming year.
“Our focus will be to ensure that the social-emotional well-being of all of our students is at the forefront,” she said. “We want to ensure that our students feel connected. I am looking forward to getting to know the student body.”