Eric Andersen will assume the role of principal at Kodiak Middle School this fall. With 14 years of experience as a classroom teacher in grades K-6, and three years as the principal of Eagle’s View Elementary School in Unalaska under his belt, Andersen is excited to begin his role in Kodiak.
“Of the candidates interviewed for this position, he was the unanimous choice,” Kodiak Island Borough School District Superintendent Larry LeDoux wrote in his letter recommending Andersen for the position. “Mr. Andersen is recognized for being a leader who brings people together. He will be a strong asset to the administrative team, and to the faculty, staff and families of Kodiak Middle School.”
Andersen comes to Kodiak after serving as principal of Winterberry Charter School in Anchorage. Prior to that, he spent most of his career in Unalaska, where he taught all elementary school students, with a focus on fourth through sixth grades.
Before becoming a teacher, he was a soccer coach and downhill skiing instructor to disabled students with Challenge Alaska.
Andersen, a lifelong Alaskan, was born in Kodiak, but this is his first time living in Kodiak as an adult.
Andersen’s father was working in construction in Kodiak when the 1964 earthquake hit. He was stranded in Kodiak for a week, while his wife and kids were in Soldotna. When he finally returned to Soldotna, he said to his wife, “We’re moving to Kodiak — there’s lots of work down there!”
The family stayed in Kodiak for four years, before moving to Wasilla.
“I’ve always kind of wanted to come back, be part of the community, see what it’s all about,” Andersen said. “It’s a great community. So far it’s been such a great experience. It’s nice — everybody waves to you. The parents, when they know who you are, they’re very forthcoming and gracious.”
Andersen said he is particularly excited about the elective classes at Kodiak Middle School, which include woodworking, arts classes and music programs.
“Of course the core subjects are important, but for the whole child to be developed, those electives are paramount in their development. That’s what really drew me here,” he said. “The school district focuses on what kids need. I think we have a lot of great programs here.”
During his first year as principal, Andersen said he will focus on listening to staff, students and community members, to “get a feel for where we’re going to go and where we can go.”
Andersen says his philosophy, for both sports and school is that “it’s not about winning, it’s about character development.”
“Teaching is really hard, because it’s about communication and relationships. It took me a while to figure that out, and how to do it. It’s one thing to see that you need to do that but it’s another thing to learn how to do it well, and you learn how to do it well through making a lot of mistakes, and being OK with making mistakes, and learning with those,” Andersen said. “When you do get it right and you connect with kids, there’s nothing better.”
Andersen is also an avid mountain biker and hiker who enjoys being outdoors.
“I’m excited to be here and start this new adventure,” he said.
NEW ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL BRINGS LOCAL EXPERIENCE
Heather Norton will serve as the middle school’s new assistant principal, alongside Assistant Principal Brett Simpler.
Norton is originally from Ohio, but moved to Kodiak immediately after graduating from college in August 1991. She worked at the Kodiak Baptist Mission for 16 years as the director of the Christian Activities Center, where she started numerous after-school programs, including the day camp and horse programs
“Basically, I was a principal,” Norton said. She created the schedule, balanced the budget, and recruited volunteers.
“I got to play a lot, but knew that education has always been important to me, so I was trying to think — where do I go from here? What’s the next step? How do I progress in my own growth?,” she said.
Norton received a Master of Arts in teaching from the University of Alaska Southeast. The program allowed her to build on her undergraduate degree in business administration at Sioux Falls College, now called the University of Sioux Falls. She finished with a K-8 teaching certification.
In spring 2008, Norton completed her student teaching. Since then, she has taught eighth-grade U.S. history.
“Ms. Norton brings with her a familiarity of Kodiak Middle School and district culture, practices and procedures, as well as the desire to seek additional knowledge in order to excel in her position,” LeDoux wrote. “Her positive attitude, solid communications skills, and ability to adapt and manage multiple projects, firmly places her in the path of success as an assistant principal.”
As a teacher, Norton said she enjoyed the stories that make up history. When it came time for her to take continuing education credits, she chose to pursue certification in educational leadership and administration.
As an assistant principal, Norton is looking forward to “building the culture of the school,” she said. “Helping kids be kids. School should be a safe place. It should be a place where you can explore, where you can create, where you can learn.”
Norton said that as a teacher, she always told students that they could stop and ask her if they didn’t understand something she said.
“It was just a reminder that I had to speak in their language, and sometimes I had to work hard to figure out what that language is. Every kid is different,” she said. “As a principal, I could have two kids come into my office having the same discipline issue, and I might have to approach them differently because of their language, their experience. It’s about meeting the kids where they are.”