Meet Westwood Elementary’s new principal: Q&A with Tim Stowe

by Sophia Khori
Contributing Writer
As Westwood Elementary School’s newest principal, Tim Stowe is looking forward to using his elementary and technology experience in the Elk River Area School District.

The Star News recently got the chance to sit down and chat with Stowe about his professional background and goals for the upcoming school year.

Photo by Sophia Khori
Tim Stowe takes over as the new principal at Westwood Elementary School in Zimmerman.

Q: Tell me about your background and how you decided to become an educator?
A: I grew up in Faribault, Minnesota, and went to complete my undergraduate degree at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. I originally started out as a business major. As part of the programming at Augsburg I had some clinical experiences in the classroom. You have to do community service work, and part of my work was to be in a classroom in one of the schools in downtown Minneapolis. So after that experience, it was a complete light bulb that came on that I need to be in education and a teacher is what I wanted to be, elementary specifically, because I really like working with kids. Part of it might also have to do with the size of my family. I have 11 brothers and sisters, so we have a huge family.

Q: What were some of your previous experiences?
A: My path has led to becoming a principal at Waterville-Elysian-Morristown. In my time, I have taught multiple grade levels. I’ve taught fourth grade, sixth grade, and most recently second grade.

I have kind of a spectrum of experiences with teaching, but it really is a perfect fit for Westwood Elementary because they are a three-through-five school. My first principalship experience was in Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, so a very small school district of 800 students. Half my role was technology coordinator, so I did a lot of work with technology integration in the classroom and in the instruction and repair.

Q: Why did you decide to take on this new role?
A: When I found out about the opportunity at Westwood there was some uncertainty that this would be. When this opportunity came up this past spring, I applied and was interested. I went through the interview process, I met staff, and I came up and spent some time with the community in Zimmerman and around the Elk River area with my wife, Meghan, and that was a defining moment that this would be a good fit for our family.

Luckily, I was selected and accepted the position and it’s just been thrilling ever since. I’ve gotten to know staff more as I’ve gotten the process started. My initial gut reaction and my instincts I had early on have all been substantiated and reinforced. The warmth and caring and welcoming environment from everyone, from the Zimmerman community throughout the 728 District, has been fantastic.

Q: What key learning moments from past positions do you hope to apply to your role as Westwood’s new principal?
A: What’s helped shape me as an educator are some mentors and some leaders; past principals and past teachers that I’ve had that have had a profound effect on education. I’ve really been moved by them and so I think that has been a big influence on my ability to establish relationships and build relationships with people. It’s the most important thing for our families. They send us their babies in the morning and they trust us for not only that safekeeping, but also for a quality education to help give them the tools that they are going to need to be successful for not only the next year but in life. I recognize that we’re not just in the business of teaching math and reading. Although a lot of times that’s the only part that gets the limelight, we’re really looking at the whole child. We’re fostering the ability for our kids to persevere and have adversity as opposed to shutting down. We’re very conscious and mindful about the environment that we create in the school system.

Q: What do you think some of the challenges and rewards you will come across at Westwood are?
A: I think the challenge right away will be getting to know the families and students, being new to an entire community. I don’t have the context and the background, so I think that will be challenging getting to know that part, but I think that’s also one of the things that will be the most rewarding. I think that we’re just in an age of change, looking at the technology that is coming to school systems and the world around us faster and faster. I think that we have to be mindful about the future, and we have to be ready to adapt and change and move accordingly.

Q: Why do you think incorporating technology in the classroom is important?
A: I think it’s important to have experiences and the most important part of it is that we have an opportunity to use technology to redefine a lot of learning experiences. I think if technology is the substitute for a pen and paper, then we’ve missed the mark. We don’t need a more expensive pen. I think that opportunity for us is to take learning to a new level and a deeper level for students.

At the same time I think it’s also important to be mindful of screen time and digital citizenship. There are some precautions we need to take to make sure we’re developing responsible digital citizenship for our students. If they make a mistake on social media, some of that stuff continues to haunt them in ways that have never stood with a person before and that’s a scary thing. We also want to be mindful that technology is not a pacifier. It is a tool that helps us reach our goals in a deeper, more meaningful way, but it’s also a necessity. I can’t think of many jobs where technology doesn’t play a role on some level.