The Downers Grove native taught math for seven years in Chicago Public Schools — four years at VOISE Academy High School and three years at Intrinsic Charter School — before moving into administration.
After a year in Chicago Public Schools’ resident principal program, Ms. Dornan became assistant principal at Herrick Middle School back in her hometown. In fact, Herrick was where she went to middle school herself, before going on to Downers Grove North H.S.
Ms. Dornan attended college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where earned her bachelor’s in Spanish, math and secondary education as well as her master’s in school administration.
Shortly after arriving in Elmwood Park, Ms. Dornan did a virtual Q&A with District 401’s Dave Porreca. We invite you to read on for more about the new Elmwood Park High School AP!
Interview with Ms. Dornan
Welcome to EPHS and District 401, Ms. Dornan! Could you tell us a little bit about your most recent position prior to becoming EPHS assistant principal?
I worked as an assistant principal at a middle school in Downers Grove about 30 minutes west of here. We had about 650 students between grades 7 and 8, and as the assistant principal I was responsible for maintaining the safety, security and education of all students with the help of my principal. As a team, we created the schedule for all teachers and students, monitored student behavior, helped advance teacher learning and school practices to support all students. I also worked with incoming 6th graders and presented to both them and their parents about what to expect in middle school. I also worked closely with the high school in the same town to ensure that our 8th-grade students were prepared for high school. One fun fact about my last school is that I attended there when I was in middle school!
What attracted you to your new position here in District 401?
I was looking for a new opportunity and challenge and was excited to work in a small, collaborative district. I was also excited about the opportunity to go back to high school.
For those who might not be familiar with the job, what are the responsibilities of the EPHS assistant principal?
They are very similar to my last role as a middle school assistant principal in that I am responsible for ensuring the safety and well-being of all staff and students as well as ensuring that the school provides all students with a rigorous and rich learning experience.
Why did you become an educator? What attracted you to education as a career, and why move into administration?
I always enjoyed working with students through tutoring both in high school and college. I enjoy learning and have always liked to help others be excited about it as well. Once I started teaching, I soon realized that there were other systems and structures in the school setting that I could help improve and have a greater impact on all students. I also like being able to support students in all aspects of their lives outside of the classroom.
What keeps you going and inspired as an educator, especially given the unprecedented challenges of the last 18 months or so?
I have a daughter who is 15 months old, and she has been my biggest motivation during the pandemic. I want to do a good job for all students, because I am seeing first hand how quickly she develops and how important education and development is.
If you could summarize the philosophy that guides you as a professional, what would it be?
I have always needed a career that lets me feel that I’m making a positive impact and that the time and dedication that I put in produce something meaningful.
What are you most looking forward to in the new school year?
I’m looking forward to getting back to a more "normal" learning environment and returning to sports and activities outside of the classroom.
When you were starting out in your career, what was some of the best advice you received and from whom?
QTIP — Quit taking it personally.
What are the most important things parents can do to help their student(s) succeed in school?
Be involved. Ask students about their day and what they are learning. Learning is not isolated to books and the classroom; we should discuss and transfer those skills to our everyday lives including in casual conversation.
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?
Try your best and don’t give up. Not everything comes easy, but with perseverance you will succeed. Ask questions if you need to, but always give things your best try first and foremost.
Is there anything you would like to share about yourself outside of your job?
My husband and I have a daughter named Avery and a chocolate lab named Rowdy. We just moved to Downers Grove after living in the city for the past 10 years, and we are all looking forward to having more space in the suburbs and take long bike rides. We travel to Michigan frequently to visit my husband’s family. Aside from family, I enjoy running, traveling and trying new restaurants.
Thank you so much for your time, Ms. Dornan, and welcome again to EPHS and District 401!