It’s the principal

Published 9:09 am Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Helping students achieve and building a culture of learning are some of Hawthorne Elementary School’s new principal’s goals.

Karen Zwolenski started this summer after Principal Corrine Tims retired. Zwolenski lives in Northfield and has worked at the Northfield School District for many years.

Karen Zwolenski poses for a photo near the front door at Hawthorne Elementary School. This is one of her favorite places to stand before and after school to interact with the students. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

“I did a variety of jobs,” Zwolenski said.

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Zwolenski grew up in western Wisconsin in the small town of Ellsworth. She received her undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls, and her master’s at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She recently finished a K-12 principal specialist program at the University of St. Thomas. She’s always loved teaching at the elementary level.

“I absolutely love this age of kids,” Zwolenski said. “It’s just in my blood.”

She had been looking for a principal position, and the one at Hawthorne seemed to be a good fit. She said all the staff at her school, the other elementaries and the district office have been welcoming.

“The people here are amazing,” Zwolenski said.

Since she got here, Zwolenski said she’s been trying to learn the history of the district, its status now and the vision for the future. She’s also been dealing with recent changes, like having one less grade at the elementaries with the district realignment.

Zwolenski is also looking forward to the changes to staff development in the professional learning communities teachers meet in. She said the method the district will be using has had good results in other districts.

With the first two weeks of school over, Zwolenski is still working on learning names. It’s her goal to know the name of all the students in the school, and she enjoys standing near the main entrance to greet students on their way in and out of school each day.

Zwolenski also plans to continue traditional events at Hawthorne like the family event nights. She said the school has a great parent-teacher organization that she plans to support.

“We’ll definitely continue with all of that,” Zwolenski said. “It’s just really good to be here.”

In her spare time Zwolenski likes to read, and she enjoys running outdoors. She has run four marathons and hopes to complete a fifth. Her husband, Mark, an air traffic controller, also runs marathons. She also enjoys spending as much time as she can with her daughters, Megan and Lauren.

Karen Zwolenski

Age: 49
Address: Northfield
Livelihood: principal at Hawthorne Elementary School
Family: husband, Mark, daughters Megan, 25, and Lauren, 23
Interesting fact: Zwolenski has run four marathons and hopes to do a fifth in the future.