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PIONEER VILLAGE - An educator filling the void in Maryville Elementary principal's office will continue to do so officially.
Ruth Esterle was selected as the school's new principal, replacing long-time leader Sam Cowan.
This is Esterle's first stint as a principal, bringing over 25 years of educational experience to the position.
Esterle was selected by Bullitt County Public Schools as Maryville's interim principal while serving as counselor at Mount Washington Elementary.
"I was looking for a smaller district and community," Esterle said. "I feel like this was an excellent move, one I thoroughly enjoy."
Esterle's teaching career began with 20 years of experience in Jefferson County schools. She taught a range of students, including special education, between grades K-3.
The Louisville native completed undergraduate certification for K-8 education and special education from Bellarmine University. She earned Rank 1 elementary status, along with counseling and principal certification through the University of Louisville.
"My older sister is a teacher, and my Mom was a secretary at a school," said Esterle. "I've always been around it. I guess it's also in my blood."
Eventually Esterle pursued a counseling position, hoping to help the whole child.
"As a counselor I work more with families and the administration," she said. "I enjoyed doing the leadership things as well."
Esterle served five years as Mount Washington Elementary counselor, working closely with principal Terri Lewis.
"Ruth's dedication and commitment to the system and the students is her strong point," Lewis said. "Her dedication to helping students in their strive for excellence is always there."
Lewis referred to Esterle as a wonderful problem solver as well as a collaborator with other teachers and staff members.
"She's good at seeing the different aspects of a situation," Lewis said. "She'll take the extra time to make a plan for excellence. She doesn't go by a time clock."
Another strong point Lewis mentioned was Esterle's organizational skills, important in maintaining leadership.
"I thought I was a very organized person until I worked with Ruth," she said.
Esterle is the second Bullitt County elementary principal hired from Mount Washington to take another school's position, joining Pleasant Grove principal Melissa Whicker.
"I was blessed with an awesome team," Lewis said. "I miss them sorely."
"(Lewis) encouraged my pursuit," Esterle said. "I was glad for the support but sorry I had to go."
Esterle's first steps at Maryville included assessing needs for potential growth while becoming familiar with students, families and school staff. She said similarities between Maryville and Mount Washington eased her transition.
"I have felt very welcomed," she said. "Maryville is a smaller environment, with a different building set-up. Schools aren't about the building, they're about the people that are there."
A proponent of the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program presented by Bullitt County's Kentucky Center for Instructional Discipline (KYCID) team, Esterle was pleased that Maryville also implemented the program.
"Through my teaching and counseling experience, I have a strong belief in positive behavior support," Esterle said. "We will continue to implement (PBIS) by supporting and encouraging students. We will also study data and continue to reinforce this plan."
Esterle promoted Maryville's focus on college and career readiness at the elementary level, with increased information available to students.
"We're getting the concept in front of them and encouraging them to start pursuing paths," she said. "Some can focus on selecting the right college, others can focus on a career path, such as military careers or specific trades."
Esterle was pleased with the strong parental support at Maryville, most recently spotlighted in the form of the Watch D.O.G.S. program for male role models in the school building featured by the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.
"Both schools (Maryville and Mount Washington) are great, with a strong community base, the PBIS plan, and great staffs," Esterle said.