Principal JoAnne Glenn and her staff were conducting a training seminar — when Pasco Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning and an entourage cruised into the room with flowers, balloons, a cookie cake and an announcement.
The superintendent offered Glenn hearty congratulations, as he announced she was the district’s principal of the year.
School Board Chairwoman Colleen Beaudoin gave Glenn a big hug. The principal’s husband, Scott, looked on with pride, and the room full of educators broke out in applause.
Glenn, principal of Pasco eSchool, was obviously pleased — and surprised — by the news.
It’s not, however, the first unexpected development in her career.
Indeed, she didn’t set out to become an educator.
When she went off to college at the University of Florida, Glenn had her sights set on the field of engineering.
But, some internships and other experiences made her realize that wasn’t the right path for her.
So, she shifted gears.
She’d already earned enough credits to pursue a degree in mathematics, so she decided to do that.
She recalled volunteering as a math tutor in high school.
“I remembered the advisor at one point saying to me, ‘Have you considered being a teacher?’”
“I kind of laughed it off at the time,” Glenn said.
In switching majors, she got some pushback.
“I announced that idea to my family and they were not super excited about it,” Glenn said.
She thinks her dad — who retired from the Air Force after 22 years and became a high school ROTC instructor — had noticed a changing of attitudes toward educators and teaching, in general.
He had reservations about supporting his daughter’s plan.
“So, we went through a rough period, honestly, when every time I came home, we argued about that decision — my dad encouraging me to think about it a little bit more,” Glenn said.
“My mom had to kind of take him aside and say, ‘If you and she argue every time she comes home, she’s just going to stop coming home. She’s stubborn and she’s going to do it. You need to let her do it and see where it takes her.’”
As it turns out, education was precisely the right path for Glenn.
“I’ll tell you, I haven’t regretted it for even a moment. It absolutely was a great fit for me as a career,” she said.
After college, she applied to five school districts and landed a job at King High School, as a math teacher in its traditional program.
That’s where she met Beaudoin, another math teacher there.
The two became friends, and have kept in touch.
Glenn left King High School to become the mathematics department chairwoman at new Wharton High School. Beaudoin came along with her.
Opening a new school and helping to establish its culture is an experience Glenn wishes every educator could have.
Next, she taught in what was then Hillsborough’s County virtual program, before leaving the district in 2006 to join Pasco County Schools as an assistant principal at Mitchell High.
She worked briefly at Land O’ Lakes High, too, before being selected in 2009 to become the inaugural principal of the district’s new Pasco eSchool.
A decade later, Glenn remains in that role. Along the way, the school and members of its staff have been recognized across the state and nationally for outstanding performance.
Located in Trinity, Pasco eSchool is not like a traditional school.
For one thing, its students come from across Pasco County, and throughout Florida.
It has 450 full-time students and 9,800 students taking at least one online class. Over the course of last school year, it served 17,800 students.
This principal enjoys a good challenge
As the school differs from traditional schools, so does the role of the principal, Glenn said.
The job requires collaborating with district staff, and school administrators.
Glenn said much of her success stems from the backing she receives from others.
She said former Superintendent Heather Fiorentino and current Superintendent Browning, and their leadership teams, have been very supportive.
“Even if they haven’t known necessarily how to solve the problem, or what next step I should take, they have 100% been in favor of me making what I felt was the best decision for our school and for our district,” Glenn said.
“That’s not just the superintendent or his assistants. It’s the directors of our departments. It’s the principals at other schools, who again, are willing to really sit down and really talk through problems and challenges, and keep an open mind with a focus on what’s best for kids.
“That has honestly allowed me to grow professionally, encouraged our school to take off and to try new things — and not be afraid and paralyzed that something is not going to work perfectly the first time out,” Glenn said.
Being willing to explore new avenues seems to be part of Glenn’s DNA.
“I’ve not really ever had an aversion to trying something new or something challenging.
“When I see a need, my instinct is to move toward whatever that situation or challenge is.
“I’ve had that personality quirk that when somebody puts something out there that I haven’t considered, I don’t say, ‘No, that’s too crazy.’ I’ll say, ‘You know, maybe — that’s something I haven’t tried before, I’m willing to give it a go’,” she said.
Glenn said she has worked to build a climate “that isn’t so focused on perfection, but is focused on getting better every time. I think that has really helped all of us to get better, to refine our process.”
That provides an atmosphere in which people who are struggling aren’t afraid to say: “Hey, this is not working and I am not sure what to do next,” she said.
As a leader of a school that relies on technology, it’s essential to stay abreast of new tools, Glenn said.
She calls her learning design coaches the “Lewis & Clark” of the school.
“They spend a lot of time reading, looking at different technologies, testing and vetting different things,” she said.
And, because they are on the forefront of change, what they learn can sometimes be helpful to colleagues across the district.
They can help others avoid potential pitfalls, and help them to manage through the “pain points” when making a shift to a new system, she said.
While delighted to be chosen as the principal of the year, Glenn was caught off guard by the honor.
“It’s a little bit hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that I received this recognition,” the principal said, during a follow-up interview. “There are so many great leaders here in Pasco.”
As a nominee for Florida Principal of the Year competition, Glenn plans to do her best “to represent the excellent leaders we have in our schools.”
Published December 04, 2019