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Elementary school principal continues to draw on lessons from days at York College

Stephanie Winemiller standing in hallway of school

Can an educational philosophy be boiled down to three words? Stephanie Winemiller ’06 believes so. It’s a lesson the York College of Pennsylvania alumna learned during her days as a student and one she instills today as the Principal at Friendship Elementary in the Southern York County School District.

Stephanie earned her undergraduate degree in Early Elementary Education in 2006 and went on to add Master’s degrees in Educational Leadership and Reading in 2010 and 2012.

She remembers the day one of her professors, Dr. Michael Snell, shared his philosophy of learning and leadership during a lecture in just three words: teach, lead, matter.

“He explained what each of these elements mean to him and how he uses them to guide his decision-making and planning,” Stephanie says. “He uses these three elements as his pillars of leadership. They provide focus for him. He is able to tie any initiative to these three elements.”

Following the lead

In Dr. Snell’s Principalship Class, students had to develop their own leadership philosophy. Stephanie uses her philosophy today to meet those academic and social skills challenges her students present. Her own three words are lead, learn, and purpose.

“With leading, I really strive to provide all members in my school community with a safe and joyful school experience,” she says. “I lead with love and courage, and promote leadership capacity in others.”

For learning, Stephanie feels it is important to be a lead learner within her organization, believing students learn the most when teachers are also learning, and teachers learn the most when their administrators are learning.

“For purpose, I try to be intentional with my decision-making and everyday actions,” she says. “Since as a school we are focusing on academic as well as social/emotional skills, we purposefully provide students with opportunities to be prepared for their futures, whatever that may hold.”

Practicing professors provide payoff

While Dr. Snell taught classes at York College, he was also Superintendent of the Central York School District—a position he continues to hold today. Having the philosophy of a practicing school administrator to use as a model for her own leadership philosophy is a reason Stephanie believes she is finding success leading her school. “Their perspectives and the experiences they shared were current,” she says of several professors who were practicing educators as they taught classes.

The fact many professors were currently active in education also benefited students through networking opportunities, Stephanie adds. “The professors still knew people in the business and were helpful and active helping students find positions.”

Stephanie recalls how Dr. Snell, who had been a middle school teacher himself, helped her prepare for an interview for a middle school teaching job, even though she was at the time no longer his student. In turn, Stephanie has taken this idea of preparing students for their futures to heart.

“It means providing students with life skills they’ll need after graduation,” she says. “Self and social awareness, relationship skills, and ethical decision-making—it’s a greater need today than ever before.”