Gators get new ‘pal with old ties to Keizer schools

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Dave Bertholf will replace Jesse Leonard at Gubser Elementary School this year. Leonard was reassigned down the street at Kennedy Elementary School. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Dave Bertholf will replace Jesse Leonard at Gubser Elementary School this year. Leonard was reassigned down the street at Kennedy Elementary School. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

For Dave Bertholf, a new job as principal of Gubser Elementary School is as much a return to Keizer as it is a chance to tackle new challenges.

“Gubser was one of the schools on a very short list of places I was hoping for when I found out I was going to be reassigned,” said Bertholf.

Bertholf’s first teaching job in Keizer was as part of the staff at Clear Lake Elementary School. The school, which was still housed in the building that became the Keizer Heritage Center, was celebrating its 101st year in 1992, and it was the first time there were enough students enrolled for classes to move beyond blended grade levels. At Gubser, Bertholf will fill the shoes of Jesse Leonard, who was reassigned to Keizer’s Kennedy Elementary School.

“The first year will be dedicated to relationship-building. The job is always about people even when the focus is test scores. I have to do a lot of listening and question-asking and strengthen the things that are working,” Bertholf said.

Bertholf moved from the classroom to administration in 2001. He took over the principal’s office at Bush Elementary School for eight years before being reassigned to Scott Elementary School, his last post before coming to Gubser.

Bush and Scott elementary schools share Title I status meaning students often face challenges that go beyond test scores. Among the challenges Bertholf expects to face at Gubser is the continued adaptation to Common Core standards, which have caused no shortage of consternation from some educators and parents.

“Part of a principal’s job is being a sense-maker on topics like Common Core and helping parents and teachers understand what it can mean for students,” he said.

Bertholf also hopes to be a mirror for the staff members reflecting back what they do well.

“Even great teachers don’t always know what makes them great, one of my roles is to help them hone in on it and supervise where it counts,” he said.

While Gubser has a history of high marks in testing outcomes, Bertholf said the interpersonal aspects of the job are just as important.

“A student won’t always remember what was taught, but they’ll remember how you made them feel,” he said. “We have to have good marks in testing, but that’s not what gets kids out of bed or parents excited about being part of the school.”

To that end, Bertholf’s approach to the job involves taking cues from the students and community at large.

“The students constantly teach me to be reflective, especially about the power of words. They make me really cognizant of what I say. Most of the students look up to you and care about you, and our words mean a lot to them. The intended message has to match the one they receive,” Bertholf said.

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