SOUTH KINGSTOWN — When school began Tuesday, students at Peace Dale Elementary School were greeted by a new face – Wakefield resident Lisa Wilson, the new principal.
Wilson, formerly assistant principal at Narragansett Elementary School, was appointed by the South Kingstown School Committee in August. She was one of 38 people considered for the position vacated by Susan Martin, who resigned Aug. 3.
“I’ve found there’s a friendliness and the helpfulness here, even with the students,” Wilson said at the school Wednesday morning. “Little children were just walking up to me saying, ‘Hello, how are you? Are you the new principal?’ in the most friendly and caring way.”
Wilson has been an educator for almost 30 years. She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Rhode Island, and a master’s degree in international education programs from Framingham State College in Massachusetts.
“It wasn’t until my sophomore year at URI, when it dawned on me that I really like working with kids. I found my niche,” she said. “This is what I’m meant to do.”
Her first job out of college was working at a school that was part of a home for abused boys. She said it was her most challenging, but influential, position.
“I learned so much about kids, and how it was really important to meet kids academically, socially and emotionally,” she said. “As an educator, it’s not just one side. It’s about the whole child.”
Wilson has held a variety of jobs since then, including teaching at elementary schools in the Dominican Republic, Brazil and California. She joined Narragansett Elementary in 2008, an assistant principalship she enjoyed because it gave her an opportunity take on a variety of roles. She applied for the position at Peace Dale after being encouraged by friends and family to do so.
“I’m a community member, and I felt it was the right time, right place,” Wilson said. “I didn’t want to be a principal just anywhere. I feel like this community is very kid-oriented, it’s very family-oriented. Lifestyle-wise, it’s pretty conducive to happy, healthy living.”
She said the first day of school at Peace Dale Elementary Tuesday was without issues – not even teary-eyed kindergartners. There are about 340 students enrolled at the school this year and the kindergarten includes five classes because of the new dual-language Spanish immersion program.
“The plan was very well established, so that was very seamless,” Wilson said. “It’s running like a kindergarten program. They’re learning Spanish half [the] day, and English the other half.”
As principal, Wilson said her goal is to support school initiatives, such as the dual-language immersion program, a readers-writers workshop model for literacy and a new science curriculum.
“One of the things [Superintendent] Kristen Stringfellow has talked about is a ‘growth mindset,’” Wilson said. “It’s focusing on what kids can and will do, believing in success for all and making it happen for kids. There are no obstacles here, and we can do anything.”