Meet the New EPHS Dean: Q&A with Agnes Stankiewicz

Agnes Stankiewicz

Already familiar to students and families from her previous job as Elmwood Park High School social worker, Ms. Agnes Stankiewicz is now the school's new dean of students, joining fellow dean Mr. David Parolin. (District 401 photo by Dave Porreca)

To many Elmwood Park High School students and parents, Ms. Agnes Stankiewicz is already a familiar face.

For the past three years, the Mount Prospect native has been one of the school’s two social workers. Now she’s taking on new responsibilities as a dean of students.

In that role she will be teaming up with the school’s other dean, Mr. David Parolin.

Unlike in previous years when students were assigned to deans based on grade level, students will be assigned to Ms. Stankiewicz and Mr. Parolin based on alphabetical order. Ms. Stankiewicz will be responsible for students whose last names begin M-Z, while Mr. Parolin with be working with students A-L.

A graduate of Prospect High School, Ms. Stankiewicz earned her bachelor’s degree in social work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and her master’s degree in school social work at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

She is currently working on a master’s in school leadership in the principal prep program at Concordia University Chicago.

Ms. Stankiewicz and Mr. Parolin wasted no time putting their imprint on the 2021-22 school year, planning an ambitious schedule of back-to-school orientations for all EPHS grade levels — Aug. 5 for sophomores, juniors and seniors, and Aug. 6 for freshmen.

Shortly after starting her new job, Ms. Stankiewicz did a virtual Q&A with District 401’s Dave Porreca. We invite you to read on and learn more about Elmwood Park High School's newest dean of students!

Interview with Ms. Stankiewicz

Welcome to the Deans’ Office, Ms. Stankiewicz! Could you tell us a little bit about your most recent position prior to joining Mr. Parolin as dean of students?

I have served the Elmwood Park High School community as the school social worker for the past three years. I’m excited to move into the Deans' Office this year and take with me my social work lens. As the school social worker, my focus was to empower students to identify and overcome barriers in their lives in order to become better available for learning. I was able to work with all types of students including those with mental health challenges, students with disabilities, family issues, friend/relationship conflicts and many other at-risk populations.

I’m proud of the connections I made and fostered with local agencies and organizations. More specifically, I am most proud of the work done collaboratively with Elyssa’s Mission, a suicide prevention program that proactively educates students, parents and teachers on recognizing and assisting teens most at risk.

You’re moving into an administrative role. What attracted you to the position of dean of students?

In the dean’s role, I’m most excited to be a liaison between many different departments and groups. The dean has the ability to still work closely with families and students, to connect professionally with teachers, and to engage administratively with the District Office. I’m looking forward to working with all of these groups as well as the Student Services Team, composed of the social workers, counselors, psychologists and other clinicians. 

For those who might not be familiar with the job, what are the responsibilities of the EPHS dean(s) of students?

Like all educators, the role of the dean is to help students become individuals who are able to problem solve effectively, communicate respectfully and flourish as productive global citizens. Deans establish a high standard of conduct and work to resolve student conflicts, attendance concerns and address all safety and security within the building.

Going back to your previous job, why did you become a social worker in general and a school social worker in particular? What attracted you to doing social work in an educational setting?

I have always been interested in mental health and psychology, and I have often marveled at the power schools have to reach so many teenagers at once. Schools are incredibly sacred places where all students should feel safe, welcomed and accepted. The field of education is a place to make a significant impact on students' lives. It is an honor to empower others to be the best version of themselves, to advocate for their needs, and to think critically about the world around them. 

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

I’m inspired daily by the incredible work of the teachers around me. Educators in District 401 are selfless, and their resilience has never shown brighter than in this past year. I’m inspired by human connection and the positive growth that I see students go through during their high school years.

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

My professional philosophy is to provide a safe place for students and faculty to problem solve in an equitable manner that values the thoughts and feelings of each individual. My focus is on restorative practices that allow for students to feel valued and to grow from their experiences.  

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

I am most looking forward to the upcoming freshman and upperclassmen orientations. I cannot wait to welcome the students back into the building and start the year off in a positive way.

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

I love this question because it highlights some of the role models I have had as administrators along the way. In my social work internship, my supervisor always said, "Be good to your people," and it is something that she lived and breathed daily. When I think about some of my best supervisors and administrators, they made a point to check in on our well-being, consider our stress levels, support us when needed, and always be willing to do the hard work alongside us. We have to remember that we are working with individuals with complex lives and multifaceted situations, and we have to be good to one another. I hope that I can be as good to "my people" as some of my supervisors have been to me.

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

The most important thing parents can do is to communicate openly and honestly with their child and with school staff. Students do best when they feel like their parents are in their corner, wanting them to succeed. When parents realize that school staff too want nothing but success for their child, the goal of the entire team is shared.

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? 

Again, communication and showing up is the most important thing for students to do. Being willing to face fears and anxieties is difficult, but it is through this vulnerability that genuine change for the better can occur. Students should know that they are not alone and that educators at EPHS are here to help them navigate through these difficult years.

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

Above all, I love spending time with friends and family and being outdoors/physically active. Hosting barbecues, playing soccer, volleyball and tennis, exploring Chicago, traveling to new places, going hiking and bike riding are all things that bring me joy. If I am with the people that I love, anything we do is fun.

Is there anything we haven’t covered that you would like to mention or address?

I’m honored by the opportunity to serve Elmwood Park High School as the dean of students. Although the position will come with challenges, I’m confident that leading with empathy paired with perseverance and an open mind will prove successful.

Thank you so much for your time, Ms. Stankiewicz. Welcome again to the Deans' Office!

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