Rye school boss Eric Byrne named her Milton School principal back in April. MyRye.com sat down – virtually of course – with Annemarie Piekarski, principal at Milton School, and learned about her sous chefs and who influenced her journey into the field of education.
Your name: Annemarie Piekarski, principal, Milton School
MyRye.com: What drew you into the field of education?
Piekarski: My mother was a teacher (retired this year) and it was much more than a job for her. My parents were very much a fabric of her school community and that carried over into my life. Education was always a priority in our house. I did go to college to study physical therapy, but was drawn to education with a little nudge from my mother. My mother was right; I was born to be a teacher!
You started teaching third grade in the South Bronx. What lessons do you apply today from that first experience?
Piekarski: I spent two years teaching in the South Bronx and learned the importance of community and collaboration. I learned that students need to feel a sense of belonging within the classroom community in order for them to take risks and push themselves as learners. It is our job to create that sense of community in the classroom and within the school. I also learned the importance of collaboration and professional development. Working with a team of teachers to brainstorm ideas and provide feedback to each other is invaluable. I still carry these lessons with me many years later.
You have focused your career at the elementary school level – why?
Piekarski: Elementary schools are special places. There is nothing quite like that light bulb moment. It is the moment when something that a student has been working on, for example learning to read, finally comes together and it clicks. Their eyes light up. The excitement and growth is tangible. There is nothing like it! The growth that takes place from when they enter as 4 and 5 year olds to the time they leave us as 10 and 11 years olds is incredible and to play a role in that growth is very special.
You came to Rye in 2018 as an assistant principal at Milton. What drew you to Rye?
Piekarski: As an educator I believe in the importance of keeping students at the heart of decisions and Rye does just that. Rye is a district that is committed to students and values the relationship between the community and the schools. Rye is also committed to ongoing learning and professional development which is vital to fostering lifelong learners. This is why I was drawn to the Rye City School District.
We sent all our boys through Osborn Elementary, so I have my bias… But what makes Milton Elementary so special?
Piekarski: While all elementary schools are special places, Milton is extra special! The minute you walk into Milton there is a strong sense of community and warmth. It is a school full of passionate and dedicated educators who strive to make Milton a nurturing place where students feel cared for and safe.
What are your three top priorities for the 2020-2021 school year?
- One priority is to continue to build strong working relationships with the Milton staff, the students and families. I have started to implement my entry plan and will continue to carry out that plan over the course of this school year.
- Another priority for this school year is to ensure we are meeting the social/emotional needs of our students and putting structures in place that meet their specific needs. This is always a top priority, but I feel it is more important now than ever before.
- A third priority is to continue to create an inclusive learning environment for all students and foster a strong sense of community within the school.
Most people have followed the recent Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ activity and news in Rye and around the world. What is your prescription for students, teachers and staff? How can the schools make the best positive contribution?
Piekarski: I believe it is our job to teach our children about equity and inclusivity. We need to engage in authentic conversations to deepen our understanding of equity and inclusivity in order to support all of our community members and to cultivate global citizens.
(PHOTO: The Piekarski family at the beach.)
You and your husband have three girls, ages 7, 4 and 3. In the rare moments you get some free time, what are some of your hobbies and passions?
Piekarski: Grace is 7, Kiely is 4 (almost 5), and Shea is 3. We love to spend time outside running, biking and playing. Staying active is a priority for us and we love to find new ways to do so as a family! I love to cook and host family and friends. The girls love being in the kitchen with me and now refer to themselves as my sous chefs! I do not bake; too precise for me!
Thank you, Annemarie!