Douglas County a magnet for Pine Lane principal
PARKER –Time and time again Pine Lane Elementary Principal Danelle Hiatt has been drawn back to Douglas County School District. Now she is in a position to bring even more high quality teachers to DCSD.
“I always wanted to come back,” she said, “I felt like this was my home base, felt very supported and I missed the people. Douglas County has (also) always been, to me, innovative and progressively moving forward and that’s something that inspires me and feeds my passion.”
Hiatt was born in Denver, raised in Montana and in college found herself on a path to education, rather than the medical career she initially chose.
“Once I took a few chemistry classes I decided that wasn’t really up my alley,” she joked.
So upon the recommendation of her parents, who said she was a ‘natural teacher with friends and family’, Hiatt decided to transfer to the teachers college of Montana State University in Boseman, and pursue a degree in elementary and special education.
Following graduation, Hiatt returned to Colorado and found her way to Douglas County as a para-professional. Since then, every time she leaves, she eventually finds her way back to DCSD.
“You’ll see throughout my career; I started here, I go somewhere else, I will come back here, go somewhere else again, and finally come back,” she explained laughably.
For a while she worked in special education for Jefferson County, but returned to become an assistant principal, after receiving her administration license. Then, after leaving again to become a principal in Elizabeth, she found her way back when an opportunity opened to lead Pine Lane Elementary in Parker.
Now amidst her third year at Pine Lane, Hiatt is excited to introduce some innovation of her own: a school site partnership with the Colorado Boettcher Teacher and Residency Program.
Under her leadership, Pine Lane will draw promising teaching candidates to Douglas County as part of a collaboration with Adam’s State University. A cohort of 6-8 teacher interns will be invited to spend a full year at Pine Lane being supervised by Pine Lane’s most passionate, skilled, and competent mentors.
“This is intended for those that have that strong passion and desire to enhance their own teaching skills and abilities by supporting new teachers coming into the profession and that is very fulfilling for some teachers,” she explained. “They love the possibilities and the opportunity to be a part of supporting a new teacher and that’s what’s exciting to see.”
“Some of them will have interns and some of them won’t,” she added, “but they will feel ready for that experience because they’ve developed their own professional learning and coaching capacity.”
Hiatt asserted that research shows the first three years of a teacher entering the classroom are some of the most challenging times for new teachers. The goal of the program is to shorten that time frame by giving the interns a high quality experience so that they can “hit the ground running and be effective when they have their own classrooms,” she said.
“The program will not only provide the university side of the experience,” she continued, “But they will also participate in professional learning and development so it will really maximize the interns’ proficiencies and competencies because they will have so many layers of learning and support by implementing those learnings in our classrooms for a year.”
Another unique piece of the partnership is that they will also get to participate in their work with Adams State University to give input and help develop curriculum at the university level in hopes to become more relevant and meet the needs of future teachers today.
While the program has begun to really take shape, Hiatt admits there have been bumps along the road. Sometimes feedback was difficult to hear, but what she ultimately learned about herself was that perseverance is key.
“I think sometimes when things seem insurmountable I have to step back and reflect and give it some time to settle out,” she expressed. “But don’t give up because when you feel really strongly and passionate about something it’s worth continuing forward even though it’s really challenging.”
Hiatt feels this program is not only valuable for the students, who will benefit from two teachers per classroom instead of one, not only valuable to the teachers, who will hone their own teaching skills while coaching the interns, but will be most valuable to the Pine Lane community.
“It’s good for the community to be able to create and develop a new identity because it’s really important as parents and families consider their options for schooling,” she said. “My goal is that I want people to want to be at Pine Lane for all the great things that Pine Lane offers in terms of quality education and programming that meets the needs of our kids today.”
And Hiatt can attest to what elementary kids need today—she is currently raising a 7 and a 9 year old.
“I absolutely love elementary school and being a part of kids’ foundational education,” she said, “And having two elementary aged kids gives me not only the educator perspective but the parent perspective on the things I go through every day.”
That perspective has been even more elevated, now that she has acquired the credentials for executive leadership at the district level.
“I love learning. And that’s also something that’s consistent and trends with my past,” she said, “After a little bit of experience, I’ll learn something new and apply that.”
Hiatt’s insatiable hunger to learn and lead will be a perfect example for the young teacher interns that will be entering Pine Lane in the fall of 2014. This program will grow world-class teaching excellence from within, so that “when they get hired…hopefully in Douglas County…they will be effective in their abilities from day one because they have learned under exceptional Douglas County teachers,” she said.
Happily married for 10 years, Hiatt enjoys spending quality time on the softball field or golf course with her husband, or with the whole family at their getaway home in Grand Lake.