Steckler is Regional Principal of the Year
By Tina Ding
For the Mandan News
Dave Steckler, principal at Mark Stark Elementary School in Mandan, has been named the 2013 Regional Principal of the Year, but he says it’s truly an award for his “team.”
Nominated by staff, he recognizes the award comes, in part, due to his ability to balance the leadership and management of an elementary school in a democratic leadership style. “I am respectful, approachable and perceptive to staff,” Steckler said. “Together with a Schoolwide Leadership Team, we meet to assess and research ways we can provide quality instruction for our students.”
“It is my belief that the principal is the key in guiding, leading, inspiring and supporting staff and students, establishing relationships where they can work and learn. Students are our first and primary concern,” Steckler said. “This is a job I very much enjoy; I look forward to coming to work every day. I am proud that I have had the opportunity to serve and meet the demanding needs in education.”
To meet the diverse and demanding needs of students in a challenging environment, Steckler implemented a number of changes to facilitate their success in learning. “Initially, we established a 90-minute literacy block to include both guided reading and a balanced literacy program,” he said. “With the block, we brought in Response to Intervention (RTI). Today, we see how RTI gives us the support and time we need to review data for struggling students.”
To create a positive learning environment where students could learn, by setting aside time to focus on instruction without interruptions, the Schoolwide Leadership Team at Mary Stark researched and implemented Positive Behavioral Interventions & Support. They realized a more traditional behavior support system was not working for their students. As a result, they first documented a 17 percent decrease in behaviors during the 2010-11 school year, followed by a 48 percent decrease in behavior infractions during the school year 2012-2013.
Under Steckler’s leadership, Mary Stark Elementary School continued ramping up to meet children’s needs. To balance writing and word work – or to manage language arts – they brought in Daily 5 Cafe. Additionally, they provide a 60-minute math block. “It’s a combination of these changes that help us to reach all students behaviorally, socially and academically,” Steckler said. “We base our instruction on the different levels of our students as well as the varied needs they have in the classroom.”
To involve parents and the community, Mary Stark replicates the Joyce Epstein National Network of Partnerships Schools model by using six types of involvement: parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making and collaborating with the community to support student achievement. “We hold an open house each late summer to welcome our parents back to school,” he said. “Additionally, we schedule two Parent Resource Nights, offering parents sessions to support academic learning and life skills so they might enhance their parenting skills.”
Further facilitating relationships between families and their school, Steckler encouraged “looping” instructors at both the first- and second-grade levels. While he credits the staff for their hard work and efforts in planning and developing a changing classroom environment as they follow their students from grade one to grade two, then looping back to grade one to repeat the process, it’s the developed relationships among parent/teacher and student/teacher that demonstrate a sense of belonging. “Relationships are so powerful,” he said. “These students have the advantage of their teachers knowing how they best learn.”
Steckler believes it takes a contributing team to work through changes and to develop success. He considers the Regional Principal of the Year Award recognition of the staff, as a building team, as well – with his job being the leader.
Before working in the Mandan Public School District, Steckler taught grades four through six in the Hazelton-Moffit-Braddock School District before becoming principal for Halliday Public School. He completed his graduate school work at Minnesota State University Moorhead before becoming a principal at Prairie View Elementary School in New Salem, then moved to Williston to be principal at Hagan Elementary. Steckler became principal at Mary Stark Elementary in 2006.
Steckler enjoys parenting, golfing and boating when away from school. He and his wife, Tina, are raising twin 14-year old sons, Trae and Camren.