KPS Adds 7 New Administrators
Four Principals Included in Group
Dwight Quinn Jr.
King-Westwood Elementary School Principal Dwight Quinn Jr. is excited to return to Kalamazoo Public Schools for the next phase of his career.
Quinn grew up in Muskegon. He came to Kalamazoo to attend Western Michigan University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in educational leadership.
He began his career with Kalamazoo Public Schools, where he taught second grade at Washington Writers’ Academy for six years. During that time, he taught summer school and was the instructional lead teacher for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers after school program. He represented Washington teachers on the superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Council, served on Washington’s School Improvement Team and the Magnet School Grant Writing Committee.
“I’m just really passionate about education,” Quinn said. “I believe all students can learn and be successful. I really work and strive toward that goal.”
Parents play a key role in achieving that goal, and it is key for any principal to develop a strong relationship with parents so they can be a team that helps children do their best, Quinn said. “The best education, the most important education starts at home,” he said. “All stakeholders play a vital role in the educational process. What I do is I try to forge a strong relationship with parents so they know their input is valuable.”
Quinn is the father to a 16-year-old, 11-year-old and a newborn. As a parent, he said he supports his children, sets high expectations and involves them in activities outside of school.
“Whenever I go to their schools, though, they say, ‘Dad, put on your dad hat.’ They don’t want me to go in and analyze things as an educator.”
Meaghan Timmons said she’s proud to be able to say she is a Kalamazoo Public Schools graduate — even though she didn’t enroll in KPS until she was a senior in high school.
Still, that year was an important one. She was able to participate in an internship that allowed her to job shadow a teacher at King-Westwood Elementary School and to work with children.
“That actually led to my teaching career,” said Timmons, who is the new principal of Arcadia Elementary School.
“I like how teaching lets you work to better other people’s lives and help better the community. It’s a way of giving back. I think being able to mix a career with a passion is just a beautiful thing.”
After she graduated from Kalamazoo Central, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University and a master’s degree from Grand Valley State University. She has worked for KPS for 14 years. She taught at Edison Environmental Science Academy for 13 years before becoming the district’s literacy interventionist and coach.
She said she’s thrilled to step into the diversity of the Arcadia community, which is known for its rich international culture.
“I think it’s fabulous that we’re providing these windows for the children to see the world,” she said. “I get the feeling that no matter where people are from, they fit in and stand out in a good way here and people are learning from each other.”
She said she sees her role as empowering children with a growth mindset, that says, “when you try hard, and you work hard and you put in effort you can always get — as I like to say — bigger, better, faster, stronger and smarter. We’re really about building our children up, not just academically but socially and helping them grow into themselves.
“I also think school should be the friendliest place there is. We’re serving kids. Learning should be rigorous, but it should also be a lot of fun.”
The new principal of Northglade Montessori Magnet School should be a familiar face to students and families.
Principal ReQwal Duckworth has taught at the school for 18 years, with experience in all grade levels. She has served as a mentor teacher, a member of the school improvement team and on the curriculum alignment team that helped align Michigan Department of Education curriculum standards to Montessori outcomes.
A native of Flint, Duckworth earned her bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University and a master’s in Montessori education from the College of Saint Catherine’s in St. Paul, Minn. She is enrolled in the educational leadership program at WMU.
Although she began her career in a traditional teaching style, she said she felt a tremendous affinity for Montessori practices after going through the training.
“It’s just a great way to learn. There are so many 'ah-hah' moments you have as a teacher. It just makes sense,” she said.
She especially appreciates the philosophy of freedom that Montessori provides students. At Northglade, the students operate in a culture of freedom of choice, freedom to move and freedom to repeat.
“We really try to teach children to be independent and to practice cooperative learning,” Duckworth said. All of that takes place in a closely monitored environment, she said. For instance, if a student is choosing to avoid math — a teacher may help guide them back to that work.
Another key element of the school is the use of multi-age classrooms “where children can learn from one another and they have the same teacher for a number of years. That allows teachers to build better relationships with students and their families.”
Building strong relationships with parents is one of Duckworth’s goals for the school. “I want to get more parents in the building to see what is going on in the classrooms and to work with students and teachers. Parent participation is so important in a child’s education.”
Parkwood-Upjohn Elementary School Principal Matt Murray traveled halfway around the world building up his teaching credentials before returning to Kalamazoo Public Schools last year.
Murray, who is originally from Highland, earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Western Michigan University, where he completed student teaching at Hillside Middle School and in Paw Paw.
After that, he and his family moved to Texas where he taught in the San Antonio area, interned as an assistant principal, was a summer school principal, and earned a master’s degree in educational leadership at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.
His family moved to Taiwan, where he taught middle school and high school social studies and English at a private international school, before returning to Kalamazoo last year. He taught at Milwood Magnet School. His wife, Sara Murray, is a special education teacher at Kalamazoo Central.
“In graduate school, I realized I had the ability to have a profound impact on students and colleagues through organizing events, and leading academic initiatives,” he said.
He said he is a big fan of authentic learning, which helps students connect their classroom learning to the broader world. He’s used that, for example, to help students rewrite the ending to their favorite stories and then to create plays that they performed for audiences. Another example might be starting a school store to teach economic principles, but also using it to teach students social skills and math skills.
“Authentic learning helps students reach out and engage the community, and in engaging they learn skills that prepare them for the real world and help them make connections,” he said.
Murray said he wants to engage all parents because he wants to know what kind of education they want for their children. “Education belongs to the community,” he said.
Hillside Middle School has a new assistant principal this year. Sally DeVisser is a native of the Kalamazoo area who graduated from Portage Central High School before earning an associate’s degree from Kalamazoo Valley Community College and a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University. She earned two master’s degree in literacy and educational leadership from Spring Arbor University.
She substitute taught for several years before joining the staff at the Middle School Alternative Learning Program for nine years.
DeVisser always thought she’d teach elementary school — inspired in part by her grandmother who was a second-grade teacher.
But when she joined ALP, “something just clicked,” she said.
“I loved working with the kids and helping them figure out what was behind their behavior and working to address that,” DeVisser said.
“I think one of the challenges is helping kids navigate the road between childhood and adulthood,” she said. “It’s a constant battle with middle school kids in that they want to be independent, and they want to be adults, and they want to be ‘grown,’ but they’re not always ready for that and they slip up.
“I like helping kids navigate that and figure out who they are as people.”
Susan Coney was hired this summer as the director of marketing and communications.
Coney worked for South Bend Community School Corporation in South Bend, Ind., for the past 24 years — the last 16 years as director of communications.
She holds a bachelor’s degree from DePauw University and a master’s degree in education/ school counseling from Indiana University South Bend. She completed the Non-Profit and Communication Series from the University of Notre Dame.
She is a member of the Indiana School Public Relations Association, the National School Public Relations Association, and a graduate from the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class XX.
In August, Matthew McCullough was appointed the director of curriculum, instruction and professional development. McCullough was the director of innovation, teaching, and learning for Schoolcraft Community Schools for the past three years. Previous to that, he was assistant principal at Arbor Preparatory Academy in Ypsilanti and was a KPS teacher for eight years.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in history, social studies, and education and a master’s degree in educational leadership, both from Western Michigan University.
He has received prestigious fellowships and is a sought-after speaker in the areas of curriculum, instruction, project-based learning, and technology.