Principal Shoutout: Jean Papagianis, Kilmer Elementary

Jason Feriend is a learning behavior specialist at Kilmer Elementary School, and a Teach Plus Change Agent alumni. He is shouting out his principal, Jean Papagianis.

Q: How would you describe your principal? 

We’ve worked together for nine years–she hired me as a brand new principal and I continue to be amazed by her leadership. Jean is empathetic, strong, smart, trusting, and she wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s also  hilarious–she’ll text you a meme or show up to spirit week in a giant rubber ducky costume. She is one of the most dedicated and humble human beings I’ve ever met. She’s been subbing almost every single day this year–she’s filling in for teachers and SECAs, covering classrooms, out at recess, she fills in wherever we need someone, and never with a hint of “that’s not my job” mentality. She’s also sending emails at 4:30 in the morning and at 10:00 at night–she’s working so hard this year for our students and staff. She always has your back–she trusts her teachers and is always there for them. Most importantly, she believes that every student can learn. Jean is a former special educator and a huge advocate for inclusion and co-teaching.  

Q: What is your favorite memory with your principal?

Funny memories like the rubber ducky costume or coming to school in a chicken costume (we dress up a lot here at Kilmer) come to mind, but honestly, some of the more charging memories I have are of Jean allowing herself to be emotionally vulnerable during our meetings together, as we struggle to try to figure out how we can fit all these square pegs into round holes and make miracles happen. She cares so deeply about our school and the work we do. There are so many needs and never enough resources, but Jean keeps us all together, making the impossible possible with our students. 

Q: What message, if any, do you have for your principal this year? 

Thank you for all that you do–it’s never been more true than this year. I don’t know if I’ve ever meant it more deeply to another human being. I have no clue how we would be functioning without the extra responsibilities that you undertake on a daily basis. 

Q: Is there anything else that you want to tell us about your principal?

When we first started, Kilmer did not have the best reputation in the neighborhood–there was previously a huge admin and teacher turnover before she came. Jean brought such heart and work ethic and built an amazing culture at our school. Our turnover is very low and Jean is always on top of staff morale, doing everything she can to make sure teachers can do their jobs. She’s a person that could walk into any position in this building and fill the role so that things continue to run smoothly. She supports our community from top to bottom and is truly a team player. Her attitude towards things that seem insurmountable is, “we know this is impossible. Let’s get to work to figure out a way to make it happen for our kids.” As long as she is in charge of Kilmer, I’m staying here. 

To learn more about #PrincipalPrideChi and Principal Appreciation Month, click here 

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