Andrea Howard admitted this year’s first day of school was probably more nerve-wracking for her than it was for her students.
While this year marks her 10th year as a member of the Calamus-Wheatland Junior/Senior High School staff, she returned to work in a different capacity: principal.
Howard started at Calamus-Wheatland in 2012 as the school’s grades nine through 12 math teacher.
She still is teaching pre-calculus and calculus classes; however, Howard also is now fulfilling a role she — at one time — wasn’t entirely sure would be the best fit.
However, after years of working with what she considers to be some of the most marvelous teachers around, Howard decided she might be just the right person to give them what they need in a principal.
Originally from Nebraska, Howard moved to Dubuque with her husband, Chris, who works as an engineer for John Deere there.
After substitute teaching in Dubuque for a year, she was hired at Calamus-Wheatland.
Howard said her mother is a teacher, and growing up, she figured she would follow in her footsteps.
However, it wasn’t until she met her high school math teacher that she knew for sure.
“He pushed me toward teaching math,” Howard related.
Becoming an administrator, however, was not on her radar until a friend and co-worker began taking steps to enter that aspect of education.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in administration,” Howard confessed. “But I went through the classes with (Calamus-Wheatland Elementary Principal) Ashley Kelting. After a while, just knowing what our students and teachers wanted out of an administrator, I felt I was the right fit for that.”
Two of the most important things Howard hoped to bring to the table was strong leadership and to be perfectly clear — and consistent — as to what is expected of students, as well as what consequences they face if they don’t adhere to the school’s guidelines.
Prior to beginning the 2021-2022 school year as principal, Howard said she did have one worry.
“I was concerned about not getting to interact with the students as much as I did when I was a teacher,” she shared. “But I’m happily surprised that I have been able to— at lunch I talk with them, and I check in on them in the classrooms.”
Education in general, whether a person is a teacher or administrator, can present many challenges. Howard said one significant issue is helping students to find their motivation.
COVID certainly has made it even more of a struggle to keep students engaged and inspired; however, Howard credits Calamus-Wheatland teachers for doing a good job of forming positive relationships with their students and keeping them on the right path.
‘The education can’t be beat’
Howard said what she enjoys most about being a part of the Calamus-Wheatland School District is its small-town, friendly feel. It’s a feeling that is reminiscent of the similar-sized community in which she was raised.
“The education can’t be beat,” she noted. “The teachers know their students and the students’ parents and know the kids outside of school. That can make a world of difference when teachers have that kind of closeness.”
While it has been an adjustment for both her and students to see her transition from teacher to principal, Howard said the first few weeks of school have gone well.
She is grateful to her co-workers for their support and has some words of wisdom for future educators to keep in mind when the challenges feel like they outweigh the rewards.
“The thing to always keep in mind, is to keep your spark alive; your reason for being here,” Howard shared. “I myself went through that same kind of thing during my first few years of teaching. I was lucky enough to find myself among peers who said to take a step back, and find my spark again. And now, here I am, 10 years later.
“We have a great staff, and they’ve been so helpful to me in this new role and figuring out my path, especially Ashley and (superintendent) Lonnie (Luepker). Everyone has been great.”