Dr. Adria David and Valerie Uhlorn are among the Boise School District's newest elementary school principals. While their personal and professional paths couldn't be more different, they share an unbridled enthusiasm for the new school year and optimism for the kids who will walk through the doors of Amity and Lowell elementary schools on Wednesday, Aug. 24.
Can you trace your choice to be an educator to a particular moment?
David: I had a pretty difficult childhood. There was a time that my mother, who had me when she was very young, took us to Mexico to escape a pretty bad situation. Even when we returned to Oregon, we went into hiding. For a while, we were just trying to survive. I struggled. I remember when I was in fifth grade I overheard a teacher tell another: "I don't know why she tries so hard. Look at her family. She's not going to amount to much." That will always stick with me.
That may have defeated another person.
David: I still struggled. I had to live on my own and raise my younger brother, but my educators at Eastern Oregon State opened my eyes to a whole new world.
This is your 19th year as an educator, yes?
David: I worked in Caldwell, then the Vallivue School District. I was fortunate to work for the Idaho State Department of Education, and now I'm so blessed to be the new principal at Lowell.
Uhlorn: Your story is amazing, Adria.
David: Everybody has a story.
Uhlorn: Well, my story started in Seattle. I'm the daughter of a teacher.
Was she ever your teacher?
Uhlorn: No, but get this: We once taught in side-by-side classrooms. Which is funny, because she discouraged me from being a teacher.
You initially took a different path?
Uhlorn: I majored in political science and pre-law and worked for the Ada County prosecutor's office, assuming I'd go to law school. But I wanted to have more of an impact on people's lives. I went back to school and got my master's in special ed. I worked at Lowell Scott Middle School, Hawthorne and Trail Wind elementary.
You both must recognize that a child of a teacher or a principal has to share his or her parent with a lot of other children.
David: You've got to work on a balance between work and family. That's something that's very special about this district: encouraging that balance and the importance of family.
Uhlorn: My mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage four cancer last year. One of our area directors pulled me aside and said, "Whatever you need. Family comes first." Earlier this week, I was in a meeting when I got a phone call that my 1-year-old was sick. No one batted an eye. They said, "We can wait. You're a mom once."
Tell me about your schools' neighborhoods.
David: In Lowell's neighborhood, people are walking or riding their bikes everywhere. And they're always greeting one another.
Uhlorn: Amity's neighborhood is lovely, pretty middle-class with tons of parent support.
Is there still a magic that surrounds the first day of school?
Uhlorn: I can't wait. Absolutely nothing is booked so I can spend the day greeting everyone.
David: Our PTA will hold something called "coffee on the courtyard" for the parents.
Uhlorn: We have the "boo-hoo, yahoo" room.
Wait a minute—what?
Uhlorn: We have a separate room, the "boo-hoo, yahoo" room," and about 15 minutes after kindergarten starts, we have to start moving the parents out. So, we say, let's head to "boo-hoo, yahoo" where there's coffee and donuts. At some point, we have to start celebrating.
David: That sounds like coffee in the courtyard; you have to let them know it's OK to let go.
When do you start your school day?
Uhlorn: I'm up at 5:30 to the gym and back home before the boys wake up.
David: I'm up at 4:30 or 5. I'm lucky because, since my girls have moved out, I've turned one of their bedrooms into a workout room.