Meet Leigh Pytlinski, Northridge Elementary School
HIGHLANDS RANCH – “We are way more than test scores. We want to make sure that kids are recognized for who they are and are learning to be critical thinkers,” says Northridge Elementary School Principal, Leigh Pytlinski.
Born and raised in South Africa, Pytlinski knew she wanted to be a speech language pathologist since the age of eight. Inspired to follow her dreams, Pytlinski attended the University of Cape Town and studied Logopedics (also known as speech language pathology). In 1994, Pytlinski packed up and moved to the United States to complete her coursework, earning a Bachelors degree at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. After taking some time off, Pytlinski decided she wanted to run a group home for kids with developmental disabilities. She then furthered her education by receiving her Masters in speech language at CU Boulder, and is currently finishing her P.H.D. at the University of Denver.
Pytlinski worked in Denver Pubic Schools as a speech language pathologist with autism students, and also helped start an autism-based preschool. Pytlinski was drawn to Douglas County School District when she was seeking new and innovative ways to provide students with a World Class Education.
“I was amazed,” Pytlinski said. “What they were doing in the preschools was exactly what research was saying is best for kids. That’s when I knew I wanted to be apart of DCSD.”
Pytlinski started her career with DCSD eleven years ago, and worked in the preschool program for many years. After the prior principal of Northridge convinced her that she should take on more of a leadership role, she became the new principal of Northridge Elementary.
“We want to make sure our kids are getting an education that is going to take them far. We want our students to develop learning skills that they can use in the future, and in order to do that, we have to have engaged workers,” said Principal Pytlinski.
Northridge believes in building the whole child by incorporating hands-on activities. Students get to participate in an array of activities, including tending to the school garden and a robotic Lego class.
“We are pretty well known for our high academic scores, but once you get in the building, that’s not what most people notice. At Northridge, we believe in building the whole child,” explains Pytlinski. “So we have every child participating in Mandarin, art, music, engineering and health, in addition to the standard reading, writing and math courses.”
At Northridge, students can participate in many different competitions such as Brain Bowl, Destination Imagination and many more. Students are also offered the opportunity to participate in activities such as drawing clubs and fencing. All of these activities are made available to help students develop and shape their own future.”
The philosophy at the school includes incorporating student energy straight into learning.
“As you walk around our building, you will see that we modify our furniture so we can move things around, in order to cater to bigger, more productive learning spaces. We want to make sure the students are provided with a comfortable and workable learning environment,” Pytlinski shared.
“We have a very strong academic program that is fully supported and I really think our schools are the way they are, because our children are happy,” says Pytlinski. “They can get involved with their passions and really take initiative with the person they want to be when they grow up. “
Pytlinski wants her students to know its okay to make mistakes.
“We prepare them academically for middle school, so they will be absolutely ready for whatever middle school throws at them. I want them to know its okay if it’s difficult, it’s okay if you don’t get it the first time. If you keep working hard, you will get it!