This month, our Outstanding Educator award honored Temple ISD's Kathy Cook.
Mrs. Cook is the principal at Western Hills Elementary School.
When she retired after eight years as principal at Belton High School, Mrs. Cook felt a void without her students.
"I wasn't complete without kids," Mrs. Cook said. "I did a year without kids, and it wasn't for me."
So, when an interim principal position opened at Western Hills Elementary School, she took it. She expected the gig to last a semester. But, after falling in love with the job, she applied and became the permanent principal.
Her leadership approach is based on a collaborative culture. She is direct and runs a tight ship, while simultaneously welcoming the input of her staff and giving them positive reinforcement.
"She writes handwritten notes to staff members and will sneak it on their desks when they're not around," school counselor Courtney Macal said.
Under Mrs. Cook's leadership, attendance has improved, along with student behavior and even communication with parents.
Mrs. Cook refuses to take sole credit for any of the school's accomplishments. She values her core administrative team of four, along with all the teachers and support staff members who make the place run. She keeps her door open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. to allow all those employees to stop by and be part of her culture change.
"It's like a turnaround -- complete turnaround," teacher Stacy Ferree said. "People just love coming to work. We love seeing each other."
This will be Mrs. Cook's fourth year at Western Hills Elementary School.
She keeps a notepad by her bedside, where she scribbles any ideas she imagines in the middle of the night -- ideas that will improve the lives of her students.
Mrs. Cook always tells her students a simple phrase: "Have a great day or not. The choice is always yours."
To nominate a teacher for the Channel 6 Outstanding Educator award, click here.
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