APOLLO BEACH — Apollo Beach Elementary School welcomed Jaime Gerding as its new principal on Monday.
Gerding replaces J. Thomas Roth, who held the position for five years. Roth will continue as principal at Reddick Elementary, which opens this fall in Wimauma.
Gerding, who grew up in the Tampa area, graduated from Chamberlain High School and the University of South Florida and earned her master's degree from Saint Leo University. Gerding started her career at Apollo Beach Elementary as an intern and later taught second and fifth grades before spending five years as assistant principal.
"The No. 1 draw for me (at Apollo Beach Elementary) is the family feel. Everyone is truly committed," Gerding said. "There's a bond between parents, staff and me. When I come into work, I know I have support from everyone and that's amazing."
Beginning this fall, Apollo Beach Elementary will be one of five schools participating in the new Model Schools Coaching Project. The plan: Foster collaboration among teachers and staff by providing a framework for teachers to examine their own classroom practice and improve instructional strategies. Teachers will invite other teachers into their classrooms to observe specific strategies or practices and get immediate feedback.
"Teaching can be very isolating if you try to do it all yourself," she said. "By developing a coaching culture between teachers, staff and parents, we will have the ability for a caring and trusting relationship to grow."
The coaching project stresses staying connected with students and parents, being positive and addressing every student's needs.
"Teachers can talk to me in amazing details about a child's progress and have a plan to help them succeed," she said. "It's not just a 10-question worksheet on a child's progress they have to answer and turn in."
Gerding also plans to continue training teachers at workshops throughout the county.
"Unless I understand what I am asking teachers to do, I won't know how to handle that bump in the road they may be facing," she said.
Gerding enters her new job with a $4.3-million renovation going on until December.
It was no surprise she would get the position.
"Her style and the positive energy around her is contagious. I feel it," said Pat Lee, secretary for Roth and now Gerding. "She's a wonderful brain- stormer and she's structured and organized. I like that."
Guidance counselor Valerie Dixon is looking forward to working with Gerding.
"She's there for me whenever I need her, even if it's a menial task," said Dixon. "We are sad to see Mr. Roth go, but I know he will be a good addition to Reddick. "(Gerding and Roth) had a good relationship that made it pleasant to work for them."
Among the issues that Gerding will need to address, Dixon said, is tardiness by students who walk to school. Some kids take their proximity for granted and assume they have plenty of time to get to school, she said.