By Lauren Peller
As editor-in-chief of the Thunderbird, I had the opportunity to meet with our school principal, Dr. Woodberry, to get his perspective on the upcoming school year. We covered some customary questions, talked about his vision for the school and its students, and then moved on to some lighter topics. It was an interesting conversation that provided me an appreciation for our principal’s dedication to our school and just how lucky we are to have him.
Thunderbird: What are your goals at High School East for this upcoming school year?
Dr. Woodberry: The biggest goal this year is to infuse technology and innovation into our school. You can see where this has already been put in place in different areas, such as the broadcasting room, the Makerspace, and the recording studio for musicians. In addition, there is a new AP Computer Programming class. All of these additions are in an effort to make our school more technology savvy. I want the concept of the computer lab to disappear. I think that every classroom should be a computer lab. The technology that students have grown up with should be accessible to them in every area of the building.
TB: What do you think students should remind themselves when they enter the school building?
DW: I think everyone should embrace the ideals of respect, responsibility, and excellence, even if this sounds cliche. You should always treat people how you want to be treated. You should always be responsible, do what you came here to do, and be accountable for your actions. Always strive for excellence and try to be the best you that you can be.
TB: How do you think students can strike the right balance in high school with their various commitments?
DW: You have to choose wisely and can’t spread yourself too thin. Focus on the things that you really enjoy and those things that you want to get better at. Pick a few things you want to excel at and go in depth with those instead of trying to do everything.
TB: What life lessons did you learn over the years that can apply to high school students?
DW: Work hard because one of the things that distinguishes successful people from those who are less successful is hard work. You could be equally talented, but the person who puts in the most work is the person who is going to be more successful.
TB: Can you describe the updated vision statement and your intention in changing it?
DW: A vision statement is something that should incorporate the ideas and ideals of the population that is in the building. The last time we did a vision statement was before you were here, ten years ago. You really didn’t have a voice in it, so the goal for me was to have a vision statement that reflected our current population.
DW: Do you recall doing anything in English class pertaining to the vision statement?
TB: Yes, last year and this year we discussed the vision statement.
DW: Last year, we took some of the things you said, incorporated everything, and boiled it down to a compact statement. The essence of the vision statement did not change significantly. The major changes were the students and staff incorporating ideas reflecting innovation and initiative. From the students’ perspective, they felt that the vision statement should include the concepts of a comfortable and safe environment.
TB: Can you explain the meaning behind the staff shirts that say, “stay connected?”
DW: The superintendent’s vision is for our large school district and community to come together and work together toward our common goals. She believes that every member of the school community plays and important role in making our district great. Similarly, in High School East, “stay connected” is an initiative to bond more and really become part of HHH and part of each other’s lives and to realize that none of us can do it alone. We are doing things in our school to make things more cohesive and more connected.
TB: What obstacle have you overcome in your life that you are most proud of?
DW: Probably going to college. There were limited means in my household when I was growing up. When I went to college, I didn’t know how I was going to pay for it. But, with the help of my mother, I was able to do everything I had to do to get into school and pay for it. I worked in the school cafeteria and eventually became a resident advisor. That cut a big expense, room and board, out of my college fees. So, I did things in addition to going to school to go to school.
TB: At the end of the school day, what is most rewarding thing? What makes you smile?
DW: I would probably say seeing the smiles on people’s faces throughout the day. Of course, I have the opportunity to go into a lot of classrooms and see the learning occurring, and that is also really important to me.
TB: What are your thoughts about the new hallway?
DW: I love the new hallway. It was used as a storage area for years. To alleviate congestion, we decided to open that hallway. I would really like to thank the maintenance department for all of their help in making this a reality. They did, and continue to do, a great job and worked really hard to get the hallway in shape for this school year. Now, this hallway has become a regular part of the school. We are planning on putting up murals in the hallway to make it even more appealing to the student body.
TB: I am sure that being principal comes with a lot of stress. How do you help alleviate some of this stress?
DW: I do a lot of running, working out, and weight lifting. I enjoy watching movies.
TB: What would you like to tell the students that they don’t already know about you?
DW: I would hope that I could get across to everyone that although I am stern and firm when it comes to discipline and structure in the building, I really am a nice person.
TB: What makes you laugh?
DW: Funny shows, practical joke shows. The blooper shows like “Ridiculousness.”
TB: Is there anything else you would like to add?
DW: I am so proud to be the principal of High School East. I absolutely believe that I am in the best school. I am proud of our entire staff, and we have the best teaching staff in the nation. We have the best students in the nation, and together, we can achieve so much.
Photo by Maryanne Mahoney