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2010: Middle School Principal of the Year

Principal Looks Beyond Test Results
Life Sciences leader has been at the helm for every graduation


Genevieve Stanislaus has worked under more than a dozen chancellors during her 30 years in the public school system, and said she struggles to keep up with all of the changes mandated from above. But perhaps no change has affected her approach to the job more than the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, less than six months after becoming principal of the Life Sciences Secondary School on East 96h Street.

"Everyone is so paranoid and worried… that we lose the essence of teaching," she said about the law. She noted that previously, "testing was one of the ingredients, but it wasn't the only ingredient."

StanislausasStanislaus said that the vigilant focus on testing in the federal law and from the city's Dept. of Education pushed her to work harder to stimulate students. Given a unique opportunity to shape the school—Stanislaus took charge of Life Sciences before the start of its third academic year, before it had graduated its first class—she instituted a variety of extracurricular programs including a Regents program for middle-school honors students, 100 hours of mandated community service and a Model United Nations program that she said has become particularly popular among the high schoolers.

"I want children to leave learning something," Stanislaus said. "School is the years that you can hopefully learn something about yourself."

Stanislaus, whose school goes from grades 6 to 12, said that she tries to devote as much time as possible to working with the 700 or so students. "I'm out in the hall every day," she said. "I would like to think I'm mindful of what students need."

A lifelong educator, Stanislaus began her career in 1980 teaching adult GED classes and worked as an assistant principal at Wagner Middle School on the Upper East Side before coming to Life Sciences. She said she first developed a passion for education as a young child in New York witnessing the Civil Rights movement from afar. The realization that "education wasn't just given to everybody" taught her the value of education more than anything else, she said.

She still wishes that more emphasis was placed on education in America. "We spend more money to put someone in prison than to educate a child," she said.

She grew up in Washington Heights and attended Catholic School in Manhattan. Stanislaus, 58, lives with her husband in New Jersey. They have three grown children—two daughters and a son—and two toddler grandchildren. "We made sure they were educated and college graduated," she said about her children.

Though she said that she is planning to step down as principal of Life Sciences within the next few years—she has outlasted most of her peers during her nine years on the job, she noted—she doesn't see herself leaving education any time soon. She has many ideas for her next pursuit, including returning to adult education or assisting new principals in learn the ropes.

"Just teaching somebody how to do anything is important," she said. "Even if it's how to bake a cake."

— By Max Sarinsky

Photo above: Genevieve Stanislaus, principal of Life Sciences Secondary School, said, “We spend more money to put someone in prison than to educate a child.” She plans to leave the school within the next few years, but wants to keep working in education.
Photo by Andrew Schwartz

 

 



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