Amanda Hopkins is one smart lady — but when you’re the principal of an active Catholic school, smarts as well as positivity, energy and enthusiasm are all essential qualities for the job. Hopkins has them all in abundance.
Recently appointed principal at St. Margaret’s Catholic School in Mattydale, Hopkins, a 10-year teaching veteran, is excited about her new position.
“Through God’s good grace and the encouragement of others, I was pleased to accept the leadership role at St. Margaret’s,” said Hopkins. “I absolutely love what I do every day and I feel blessed to be working with such wonderful people.” St. Margaret’s School was established in 1954 and has a long-standing tradition of academic excellence and teaching Catholic morals and values as part of its strong Catholic education foundation. Hopkins herself is no stranger to Catholic education: prior to her appointment at St. Margaret’s she taught second and fifth grades at Holy Cross School in DeWitt.
“I really loved the Holy Cross community,” said Hopkins, who had been at the school for the past two years. “I miss everyone there but I’m excited to be at St. Margaret’s.”
Choosing a career in education was not a surprise for Hopkins; it was due in large part to her own experiences as a student.
“I moved around a lot as a child and I met teachers who were excited to have a new student join their class, and others who were not,” said Hopkins. “When I attended Catholic school the teachers never made me feel as if I were a burden. It’s that sense of security and welcome that I want to give to all students.”
Prior to receiving her teaching degree, Hopkins attended The College of St. Rose in Albany and graduated with a dual major in special education and elementary education. Following graduation, Hopkins began her teaching career at Jowoino School in Syracuse.
“At Jowoino, inclusionary pre-K was taught with the philosophy that everyone can learn, they just learn at a different pace. I brought this philosophy with me to every public school I [subsequently] taught at,” explained Hopkins. “When I began teaching at Catholic schools I discovered this philosophy was already in place and it was like coming home.”
Hopkins is already getting comfortable in her new role as principal. “I am so excited to see the progress that we are making and to work with people who are truly passionate about what they do. I also like knowing that the decisions I make today or tomorrow will help shape our schools for future students,” stated Hopkins.
And if a teacher is in need of a substitute, Hopkins is also the kind of principal to roll up her sleeves and jump right in to lend a hand.
“So far I’ve taught art and gym,” laughed Hopkins. “I love helping out since I miss being in the classroom fulltime.”
Making the adjustment from teacher to principal has gone smoothly for Hopkins, success that she credits largely to her dedicated staff of teaching professionals.
“Our teachers have such passion for what they are doing and their high degree of dedication to our students is unmatched. Catholic school teachers are amazing, special people who need to be supported and loved for all the work they do for our children and for making our schools successful,” she said. “My philosophy regarding Catholic education and educating students in general is that everyone can learn, but the demand on our teachers is so great that it will be my job to filter through all the information that comes our way and support the teachers in their efforts to meet the needs of each child.”
Although the needs for each student can vary radically, Hopkins believes that the variation only strengthens the support provided to the teachers, families and the students themselves.
“I believe education is a full-family process. It takes a community to raise a child but everyone needs to be on the same page,” explained Hopkins. “Each
family is different and each student is different. It’s a beautiful thing that parents are more involved in their children’s education these days and they are an important part of our team. The questions they bring to the table are important so we can all help their child succeed for the future, whether that student needs reading support, help making friends or assistance in growing in their faith.”
“The students and their families who attend our school are very special to us and our expectations are very high. If a child attends St. Margaret’s they are going to graduate with all the skills they need to become successful,” she added.
Hopkins joins the staff at St. Margaret’s at an interesting time of change: the school building has undergone a complete renovation and staff have been working with students on new computers in both the technology lab and the library, an area that Hopkins enthusiastically supports.
“I want our Catholic schools to continue to grow in the use of technology and ‘flip’ classrooms,” explained Hopkins. “We need to continually give teachers as many of the tools to help them succeed in the classrooms.”
Looking ahead, Hopkins would still like to see additional growth in areas such as science.
“It would be wonderful to have even more hands-on science experiments and in-depth learning,” she explained. “Science is a great way to excite children about learning and really pull out their true investigative minds.”
As if being a principal weren’t enough of a full-time job, Hopkins is also the wife of Syracuse Diocese Director of IT Kory Hopkins and the mother of 14-year-old Sara, a ninth grader at Bishop Grimes Prep, and 6-year-old Johnnie, who attends St. Margaret’s kindergarten.
Although Hopkins is both St. Margaret’s principal and Johnnie’s concerned parent, she manages to artfully juggle both areas of her life without issue.
“I love being able to see Johnnie each day and watch him grow. I enjoy seeing him helping others and I’ve gotten to know his friends. His teacher and I have a great relationship and we’ve worked things out so I can say frankly to her, ‘I am coming to you with my Mom hat on,’ or she’ll say to me, ‘I need you to be Johnnie’s Mom right now.’”
And how does Johnnie feel about his mother being principal?
“Johnnie just thinks it’s the coolest thing in the world,” laughed Hopkins. “Whenever I pass his class walking in the hall, he points me out and says, ‘Hey, that’s my Mom. She’s the principal.’”
St. Margaret’s will be hosting a school open house for prospective students and their families on Jan. 26 from 12-2 p.m. Tours will be available for all interested parents and students. For more information call (315) 455-5791.