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Katie Schweitzer joins Kelso Elementary as principal

When Katie Schweitzer was a child, both her parents and her grandmother worked at the Franciscan Montessori Earth School she attended in Southeast Portland.

Her own career in education began at the same Montessori school in 2000, where she taught pre-K through sixth grade.

Twelve years later, Schweitzer is excited to become the new principal at Kelso Elementary School, where she will replace retiring Principal Pat Sanders at the end of this school year.

'It's going to be amazing to work in a district and school with so much community involvement, Schweitzer says. 'I can't say enough how excited I am. You couldn't ask for a nicer school or community.'

An East County native, Schweitzer received her bachelor's degree in Spanish and master's degree in education from Portland State University.

At age 19, she studied abroad in Puerta Vallerta, Mexico, where a trial-by-fire experience reaffirmed that education was the right fit for her. and #8232;'I was planning to be a preschool assistant,' Schweitzer says. 'But when they picked me up in August, I learned I was going to be a fourth-grade teacher.'

Schweitzer had a week to create her own curriculum and adjust to a different age group. By the end of her program, she had nine months of teaching experience.

When she returned to Portland State for her master's degree, Schweitzer taught university-level Spanish courses, which helped cover the cost of tuition. To this day, she says her background in Spanish is one of her most important skills.

'It's tremendously helpful to have that connection with a family when Spanish is their native language,' she says.

After college and her experience teaching at the Montessori school, Schweitzer taught Spanish and was the electives department chair at Athey Creek Middle School in West Linn.

In 2008, she completed her administrative internship at Summit High School in Bend, and in 2009 she completed her doctorate in education at George Fox University.

Schweitzer served as vice principal for student life at La Salle Catholic College Preparatory for the 2009-2010 school year, then became an assistant principal at Sam Barlow High School in 2010, where she works today.

'Education is really evolving right now,' Schweitzer says, alluding to the budget cuts public schools across the country are facing. 'More and more, we're breaking away from the factory model and looking at the individual needs of students, asking how we meet them where they are.'

As a vice principal at Barlow, Schweitzer has implemented recognition programs that honor standout students and faculty. The staff version is called RockStars, and features two faculty members each month.

'I love her upbeat personality - the way she treats the staff and student community with respect,' says Schweitzer's secretary, Kim Koppenhafer. 'She has a caring for everyone she comes in contact with and has made lots of positive changes in the school.'

Patty Neuenschwander, a counselor from the college and career center at Barlow, says Schweitzer is the most positive and thorough administrator with whom she has worked. and #8232;'She's extremely bright and never gets flustered,' Neuenschwander says. 'She can take a volatile situation and step by step find a solution. She leaves you in awe of her brain.'

Schweitzer and her family plan to move to the Sandy-Boring area in the coming months. She has two children with her husband Todd, 9-month-old Samantha and 3-year-old Jack. She also has a 17-year-old stepdaughter, Jordan, who is a U.S. Ski Team hopeful.

Neuenschwander says that after watching her own kids go through Kelso Elementary School, she views it as the perfect place for Schweitzer.

'The kids will love her," Neuenschwander says. "She's the kind of principal who will get out there and do three-legged races.'