by Eric Oslund
Kelly Corbett’s journey to becoming the new principal at Otsego Elementary School started back in 2001. She was fresh out of college with a degree in finance from Arizona State University and got a job with IBM in Chicago.
She enjoyed her time there, but never really felt like she was living out her passion. She was a member of a great team, had a great boss, but something just didn’t seem right. It was a time in the nation that a lot of people began re-evaluating their lives, and Corbett decided to make a life-changing choice.
“At that time, Sept. 11 had just happened and it made me re-evaluate what I wanted to do with my life,” she began. “I thought, ‘I really want to become a teacher.’”
So she returned to Arizona State University, completed her apprentice teaching program in 2003, and went on to work as a teacher and summer program coordinator for third and fourth graders at L.O. Jacob Elementary School in Coon Rapids.
She worked there for three years, but then her husband’s job moved them to Arizona, where she got a position as a third and fourth grade teacher at Fuller Elementary School. That’s when she met Ken White, the principal at the time, and a man who put the idea of being a principal herself one day into her head.
“It was Ken White, who is a phenomenal principal,” Corbett said. “He’s just amazing, super charismatic and just a real straight talker. It was exciting to come and work for him every day. I thought, ‘When I’m a principal, I want to be like that. I want to be where people can’t wait to come to work to find out what we’re going to do today or what’s going to happen.’”
She began working on her master’s degree while working at Fuller Elementary, and served as the principal intern, and then in 2010 she would receive that degree in educational leadership with a K-12 principal emphasis. But she was forced to leave the school, and her principal she grew so close to, in 2012 and took a job as a third grade teacher in Noblesville, Ind.
Her time there wouldn’t last long, though, as the following year she became the assistant principal at Joyce Kilmer Academy in Indianapolis, and was then named the assistant principal at Suncrest Elementary School in Frankfort, Ind., in 2014.
It was during her time at Suncrest Elementary that she and her husband decided they really wanted to put down some roots somewhere. Their son was about to start kindergarten and they didn’t want him to have to change schools every year because her husband’s job continued to move the family from place to place.
They sat down, discussed an ideal place to start raising their family, and decided on Minnesota.
“We just thought this would be a great place for our son to grow up, I really think we wanted to move to Minnesota, so it just worked out that he ended up getting a job 48 hours later in Minnesota and then we got here and I got a principal job eight days after that,” Corbett explained. “So everything kind of fell into place.”
Working at Edward D. Neil Elementary School in Crystal was her first chance to be a principal.
Her family took up residence in Plymouth and began making friends with all their neighbors, one of whom happened to be from Otsego. They always raved about that community to the Corbett family, wishing they could have stayed, but being forced to move because of a job relocation.
Corbett loved the way her neighbors described their old hometown and wanted to look into it, and sure enough she found an opening for the principal position at Otsego Elementary. She applied, got an interview, and the moment she walked through those doors she knew it was where she wanted to be.
It was a hard decision to leave Edward D. Neil Elementary, But Corbett felt right at home from the start at Otsego Elementary.
“The district does things the right way. They really do,” she said. “They really make sure everyone has a positive experience, whether you’re a parent, student, job applicant, principal, it doesn’t matter. They treat everyone well, and, to me, that was evident from the get go.”
Working at the elementary school level is also her real passion.
“I definitely enjoy the younger kids,” Corbett began. “I feel like if they have a strong foundation they’re going to be successful in middle school and high school. I feel like you can start building those work habits, and elementary literacy is a big passion of mine, too. In the upper grades, you don’t really get to teach kids to read as much, it’s more reading to learn rather than learning to read. I’d feel like I was missing out on that part if I wasn’t there. I’m definitely an elementary person.”