MOUNT WASHINGTON — Terri Lewis is known for her happy disposition and belief that all children really can succeed.
After spending years in the classroom as a teacher and a Bullitt County instructional coach, Lewis is now bringing those attributes to Mount Washington Elementary School as its newest principal.
Lewis officially began as MWES principal last Monday, replacing interim principal John Sullivan. Sullivan stepped in when the school’s last principal, Jennifer Wooley, moved to accept a position at the Bullitt County Board of Education last summer.
Lewis has spent the last year and a half as a district instructional coach at Pleasant Grove Elementary School. Her specialization in instruction helped teachers hone their abilities and more effectively reach students.
She began her career in education 27 years ago and has a background in special education.
Although working in administration has always been a goal of hers, she was waiting for the right opportunity.
“You want to wait for the perfect position to start,” she said. “I thought it would be a good time to get my feet wet.”
Pleasant Grove Elementary assistant principal Kim Sego said Lewis’ belief that all children can succeed will make her a successful principal.
“It’s the fact that she seeks to make a difference,” Sego said. “Her goal is not to leave anybody at status quo. Her goal is to push and reach for the stars and that’s just kind of what Terri does.”
Lewis said she hesitated to leave the classroom but knew that she could affect more children in an administrative position.
“I have loved the classroom and do have a reputation of being a great teacher,” she said.
Lewis earned her bachelor of arts in elementary education from Eastern Kentucky University, a masters of special education from the University of Louisville and is currently enrolled in U of L’s program of endorsement for school administrators.
She was selected as Wal-Mart’s Teacher of the Year in 2001 and as Bullitt County Teacher of the Year in 2003.
Lewis said her experience in the classroom and working directly with teachers would help her empathize with her staff at Mount Washington Elementary.
But she said it will take a little while for her to learn the day-to-day procedures of running a school.
Bullitt County Director of Elementary Education Terry Price said Lewis has the characteristics to be a successful principal.
“She’s a leader in her field in elementary education. She’s a very, very loving and caring person. That’s definitely an attribute you’ll want for an elementary administrator.
“She’s going to have to learn the management aspect, so that will be her biggest challenge. But she and (assistant principal) Melissa Whicker will do a great job.”
Lewis said she is excited about leading a school that has such a good reputation within the district.
“They have always had a reputation of being an excellent school. We are striving for proficiency here,” she said.
Lewis said she didn’t want to single out any specific areas that needed improvements after being at MWES for just one week. But she does plan to continue developing the school’s professional learning communities.
“It’s about shared accountability,” she said. “We can learn from each other. We will work together at a school-wide level where we make school-wide goals.”
Lewis said being visible to students, teachers and parents is important to her and that she has an open-door policy for parents and guardians.
“Today’s education is a partnership between home, school and community. Anytime parents can come in, my door is open,” she said.
Lewis said she is particularly excited about leading the school with Whicker, who was selected as assistant principal at the beginning of this school year.
Prior to being named assistant principal, Whicker served as district curriculum coach at Roby Elementary and Brooks Elementary. She also served as MWES’ guidance counselor for several years.
“This just felt like home,” Whicker said. “The year I was gone I missed the students, faculty and staff.”
Whicker said she decided to pursue administration several years ago and is excited about leading the school with Lewis.
She said she will work to create a partnership with Lewis and a great environment for everyone at MWES.
“We work together,” Whicker said of Lewis. “It’s a way to share responsibilities. We will share the load.”
Lewis has been married to her husband, Phil, for 27 years and has three children. They reside in Fern Creek.
Whicker has been married to her husband, Scott, for 15 years and also has three children. They live in the Cedar Grove area.