Yorktown Elementary School has a new principal and an updated outlook for the 2015-16 school year.
Kelly Denny, previously an assistant principal at the school, moved into the principal position this year. She brings with her more than 15 years of experience in York County School Division.
A York High School graduate, Denny leapt at the chance to begin teaching in York County when a position opened up after teaching in Gloucester the first three years of her career.
In 1998, she came on board at Grafton-Bethel Elementary School, and during her elementary teaching career she taught grades K, 1, 2 and 5.
After nine years as a classroom teacher, Denny made the switch to become an educational technology facilitator at Tabb Middle School. She later returned to the elementary level as a school testing coordinator.
“I’m always looking to make myself better, and truly be a lifelong learner,” Denny said of her decision to branch out into many different teaching positions.
That desire to continue learning and bettering herself led Denny to accept her first assistant principal assignment at Mr. Vernon Elementary in 2011. She spent two years there before coming to Yorktown Elementary as an assistant principal in 2013.
“I wanted to help more people, and have a larger impact on more kids,” Denny said. “I still think of myself as a teacher; I’m just a teacher of teachers now.”
One of Denny’s main focuses in the early days of her tenure as principal of Yorktown Elementary will be working on rebranding certain aspects of the school in order to reconnect with the students and community in a more meaningful way.
The school, which is a math, science and technology magnet, currently has a magnifying class as a mascot. Denny and her staff will be looking to potentially come up with a new mascot that is a bit livelier in the coming year.
“We are all about school pride and wanting to increase that, which led us to ask ourselves what our brand is,” Denny said.
An updated mascot is just one of many ongoing initiatives that aim to foster an increased sense of community in the growing school, which currently serves 707 students.
“York County is really growing, and the expanding population is definitely a challenge,” Denny said. “We are figuring out how to keep the intimacy of the school in the face of growth, and we do that by building relationships and personal connections with every single student and family.”
Not only are teachers being encouraged to reach out to parents and guardians early and often, but the school itself will host several family events on early release days throughout the year, and Denny plans to host multiple “principal coffee talks” to get to know parents and guardians in a more relaxed setting.
“We’re really taking our school to the community,” Denny said. “We [at the school] are only a snapshot of a child’s day, which is why it’s so important to work closely with families.”
Another important relationship that Denny hopes to foster is that between her school and the middle and high schools her students will one day attend, Yorktown Middle and York High.
“Those schools have been great about partnering with us in the past and we all want to increase our inter-zone connectivity,” Denny said.
Within Yorktown Elementary, Denny is particularly excited about a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiative the teachers and administrators have been working on in collaboration with the Parent-Teacher Association. This new program revolves around the question “How do superheroes get their powers?”
“The superhero theme is going to run throughout the school this year and challenge kids to explore that question through hands-on activities and experiments,” Denny said. “We made great gains in reading last year and this year we want to apply that same intensity improving in math and science.”
With major emphasis on building relationships and increasing learning, Denny says this school year can be summed up with three words.
“The things we keep returning to over and over again are ‘passion, pride and progress.’ It’s not just about teaching math or reading or science- we’re building strong citizens,” Denny said.