After spending 13 years as a teacher, incoming Gertrude Walker Elementary School Principal Amy Hollingsworth will have a chance to direct them.

The Garden City USD 457 Board of Education approved Hollingsworth’s hire at its Thursday meeting, and her tenure will officially begin July 30. She will replace Phil Keidel, who retired last month after four years with the elementary school and eight years with the district.

Hollingsworth, who was interviewed Friday on a Garden City Telegram podcast, has spent her career teaching first, second, fourth and fifth combined, fifth and seventh grade at Dodge City USD 443 and Copeland USD 476 and as an instructional coach in Dodge City. Her upcoming role at Gertrude Walker will not only mark her first job in the district but also her first time as a principal.

Hollingsworth said her background has given her insight that will be beneficial as an administrator.

“As a classroom teacher, I realized how important it was that teachers are heard and listened to,” she said. “I feel like parents and teachers have the most skin in the game of education, and I know leadership is really important to show that they have what they need so they can be successful and so kids can be successful. I just want to do everything I can for our teachers and our students.”

Teachers have a sense of “what works and what doesn’t work,” Hollingsworth said, and she’s no different. She said her experience in the classroom has given her the chance to communicate with colleagues about instructional strategies and taught her that building relationships with students, teachers, families and those in the community should be a top priority.

Hollingsworth’s past experience gives her both a different perspective and relevant background for her new role, she said. She said Copeland’s district was smaller, but Dodge City’s helped her get the feel of a district closer to USD 457’s size.

Gertrude Walker operates with an open concept, meaning students from all grade levels work in different sections of one open, communal learning space.

When taking a tour of the school with Keidel, Hollingsworth said she was attracted to the community atmosphere of Gertrude Walker. It’s an environment in which she could move in and out of classrooms and get to know teachers with minimal distraction or interruption to students.

“I just fell in love with it immediately. In fact, if they didn’t offer me the contract, I was going to look for another school like that,” Hollingsworth said.

Hollingsworth said she would rely on the school’s problem solving team to help her tackle any issues the school may face, and that she is excited about the district’s plan to implement a grant from the Literacy Network of Kansas next school year.

“I have an enthusiasm for education. I think the sky is the limit, and just having the ability to enable teachers to take risks in education and to try new things, to be innovative and to have someone that supports them and trying to grow and learn in that way,” Hollingsworth said.

Contact Amber Friend at