Meet Elm's New Assistant Principal: Q&A with Stephanie Spiewak

Stephanie Spiewak

Assistant Principal Stephanie Spiewak arrives at Elm Middle School after leading the Counseling Department at Saint Viator High School in suburban Arlington Heights. (District 401 photo by Dave Porreca)

After 13 years as an educator at Saint Viator High School in suburban Arlington Heights, Ms. Stephanie Spiewak comes to District 401 with a wealth of experience gained from counseling students.

Since July 1, she has been assistant principal of Elm Middle School. In that role she joins Principal Ms. Ashley Groeneveld and new Dean of Students Mr. Michael Goodman to form Elm’s administrative team.

Ms. Spiewak was head of the Counseling Department at Saint Viator. The Arlington Heights native knew the school well, having attended Saint Viator herself.

She went on to attend college at Loyola University Chicago, earning a bachelor’s degree in English and education. She also earned master’s degrees in counseling and educational leadership from Lewis University and North Park University. 

With experience as both a counselor and classroom teacher, Ms. Spiewak has worked in education for a total of 15 years.

Shortly after arriving in Elmwood Park, Ms. Spiewak did a virtual Q&A with District 401’s Dave Porreca. We invite you to read on and learn more about the new Elm AP!

Interview with Ms. Spiewak

Welcome to Elm Middle School and District 401, Ms. Spiewak! Could you tell us a little bit about your most recent position prior to becoming Elm’s assistant principal?

Prior to coming to EMS, I worked as a counselor and division head at Saint Viator High School. I also taught for several years before I was a counselor. As a counselor, I was responsible for helping students and families with any issues that come up academically, socially or emotionally. I also did a lot of work with our academic support team and SEL curriculum. After working at Saint Viator for 13 years, I am most proud of the fact that I always tried my hardest to do what was best for my students regardless of any challenges that came up. 

What attracted you to your new position here in District 401?

From the moment I interviewed for this position, I felt welcomed and could sense that the community here was something special. Everyone I have met so far has not only been so friendly, but also so dedicated to helping students. Teachers and staff clearly care about students and each other, and I am very excited to join the Elm family!

For those who might not be familiar with the job, what are the responsibilities of the Elm assistant principal?

I will be working to support staff, students and the community in any way possible. I will be helping with student issues, academic and social/emotional supports, staff needs — a little bit of everything!

Why did you become an educator? What attracted you to education as a career, and why move into administration?

From a young age, I saw my mom (a teacher) making an impact on others; everyone was important and had thoughts and opinions that were valued. I learned about the fulfillment of connecting, guiding a student to success, and leaving a lasting impression. I knew I wanted to be a part of that work and make a difference in the lives of students. I have found that as I have moved from teaching to counseling and now administration, I've been able to build on what I've learned in each position to better serve students and their families.

What keeps you going and inspired as an educator, especially given the unprecedented challenges of the last 18 months or so? 

Seeing how so many teachers and educators have adapted and creatively approached this last year has been inspiring! While there were challenging moments, knowing I was going through this with teachers and staff around the world was humbling. I truly believe effective learning communities will always find a way to overcome obstacles and do what is best for their students, regardless of how unprecedented  the circumstances are! 

If you could summarize the philosophy that guides you as a professional, what would it be?

Always begin with the question, “What is best for students?”

What are you most looking forward to in the new school year?

I am most looking forward to building relationships with students, teachers and staff.

When you were starting out in your career, what was some of the best advice you received and from whom?

One of my first teaching mentors shared, “You are never done learning and growing!” My dad showed me the importance of a strong work ethic and to never stop challenging yourself to be better.

What are the most important things parents can do to help their student(s) succeed in school?

Stay positive and connected to your children and their school community; help them learn to advocate for themselves with your support. 

Building on that, what are the most important things students can do to get the most out of their schooling, especially when they encounter difficulties and obstacles, as most students do? 

Don’t be discouraged or give up if you face any challenges. You can ALWAYS learn something from any obstacle, mistake or failure.  

Is there anything you would like to share about yourself outside of your job?

My husband and I have two children, Henry (9) and Hazel (6) who keep us busy! I love to spend time with my family and enjoy traveling or spending time outdoors. We do a lot of cooking and enjoying finding new restaurants to go to — I’m looking forward to trying some new places in Elmwood Park!

Thank you so much, Ms. Spiewak, for your time. Welcome again to Elm and District 401!

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