Known as the “Princessable” as a fun joke with the students and faculty, Kim Schaffer has been the head of Cottonwood Valley Charter School for six years. Entering her final year before retiring, Ms. Schaffer welcomed El Defensor Chieftain into her office.
How did you become the principal here at Cottonwood Valley?
It basically fell into my lap. I was a teacher and a previous principal left due to the culture shock of a small town such as ours so I was offered the job. I have been with the school for a total of 11 years.
What type of experience level did you have to make you the candidate for the job?
I had a Level 3 in teaching experience. Which means that I had a masters degree in literacy, which I got from Lesley University. So you are expected in that position to take on leadership roles and I did so.
What has your experience been since you took over this role at the school?
Fantastic. We have amazing parents and students. I could not do this job without our staff supporting me. I never thought that I was going to be an administrator because I love teaching and miss it. But this is an amazing place for me and I have no regrets making the move to the administrative side.
What are your day-to-day requirements on the job?
You know I always think that I am simply going to do simple work on my computer but there are always disciplinary issues that have to be taken care of. We are constantly trying to teach our kids how to do things at a young age.
How does the relationship with your staff work?
Very well, because they are all teachers at heart just like myself. I lay out a schedule and thankfully for us we are not hindered by state standards. We still do ‘Common Core’ testing that most schools are required to uphold. Our teachers here are able to lay out their curriculum and it makes things very unique for the students so I monitor that. After that we have staff meetings with our school district members where they don’t necessarily tell us what to do here, but they inform us of what we should do. From there we make decisions as far as how to make sure that we have community involvement throughout the year.
What type of opportunities does your school present to families?
Academically we do very well on the testing side but we also provide community opportunities for the kids. We are very open to the fact that parents can come and visit the campus anytime they want and see what is going on here as well as be a part of it. We have a staff that is concentrated on working on the whole child.
What has been the biggest challenge in your years as principal?
Everybody is so different. We are all who we are and making sure that we tap into the strengths as well as understand the weaknesses is tough year in and year out.
What is the number one biggest thing as an educator for you?
Teaching kids how to read and write. The power of that basic skill can do wonders for them down the line and also great to see when they finally click.
A few questions about yourself, were you born and raised here?
No. I was born in Denver and raised in Salt Lake, Utah. And I was not associated with the Mormon faith. No disrespect intended. But back when I was growing up being in Salt Lake my family was a bit of a minority which was a cool opportunity to know that I was different but also be accepted. My father Marve Cowan was a Baptist minister and brought us there and he is still preaching to this day.
How do you end up in Socorro?
I met and married a mathematician named Steve Schaffer. We lived in Kentucky for a year then he got offered a job with New Mexico Tech way back in 1987. We both missed the mountains and the west and it turned out that, at the time, Tech was one of the only places offering jobs in his particular skill set.
Looking back on it, what has your experience been like living in Socorro?
It’s been great. My daughter, Britany and son, Will grew up in the Socorro school system and now they have careers in law and business. Will had amazing support when he took up golf and got support from (head coach) Russ Moore, and it was just another example of how great this community is.
What is your favorite part of being a mother?
Seeing them grow up and being able to be a part of their lives to the point now in which they have become my friends. For example we’re all going to Sedona, Arizona to run a half marathon together which is very exciting.
Is there anything that you wish you could take back raising you kids?
My husband was much better at the quality time stuff, early on especially. I was much more let’s get out the door. I wish that I wasn’t rushing things. But ultimately no regrets. We raised amazing kids and now they are forging their own lives.
A few random questions. What is your favorite movie?
I always go by the most recent. I just watched the recent one with Tom Hanks playing Fred Rodgers called “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood." He was just so good and always made sure that people knew that they were loved. I hope to one day be like Mr. Rodgers.
What is your favorite book?
I love Jan Thomas, who is my neighbor. Her kids books are excellent. But if I had to do an adult book I suppose “The Princess Bride” which I recently just read for the first time.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
For me I really love the mountains so it would have to be somewhere around Ouray, Colorado. That type of atmosphere is where I really feel like I can let go and get away from everything.
If there was something that you could change about Socorro County, what would it be?
Parent involvement in schools. As a general community I wish that we could get all parents to understand the value of education. And on the other side the school system needs to be more welcoming in helping the parents to be involved here in the community.
Editor's Note: Do you know of someone who would make an interesting candidate for our 52 Faces feature? Email Editor/Publisher Wanda Moeller at email@example.com