On the job since July 1, Darcie Bigelow, the Head of School for Gig Harbor Academy, feels right at home.
The private school serves students from pre-school through fifth grade. She took over from interim school head Bruce Shoup during the summer.
“It’s pretty exciting here,” she said from her office at Gig Harbor Academy, where she’s focused on updating, aligning and mapping the school’s curriculum to produce students ready to meet and exceed the next level of their education.
It’s not so much a matter of overhauling the curriculum as it is building on what’s already there for the betterment of students.
“Gig Harbor Academy already has many wonderful programs in place,” Bigelow said. “We want to make sure we’re well-aligned to Common Core standards and Next Generation Science Standards.”
The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an education goal that seeks to bring diverse state curricula into alignment with each other by following the principles of standards-based education reform. The initiative is sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
The Next Generation Science Standards is a state-led process designed to provide students with benchmarks in science education.
“That’s the work we’ve really started,” Bigelow said.
Also high on her agenda is to have students share in a wireless environment that includes the use of computers, iPads and Apple televisions in the classroom. The modern-day technological gadgets offer more than social networking opportunities.
Bigelow said they also offer a new type of resource that promotes students collaboration and learning.
“It is a multi-complex, changing, 24/7 opportunity,” she said of bringing new technology into the education process.
Bigelow’s tenure at Gig Harbor Academy has brought her nearly full-circle in her education career. She earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she graduated magna cum laude and was elected to the national honor society Phi Beta Kappa. She received a master’s degree in educational administration and education technology from Seattle Pacific University.
Bigelow began her career with a 10-year stint as a teacher in the Central Kitsap School District, where she taught students at the now-defunct Chico Elementary School and then at Clear Lake Elementary.
In 1987, she signed on as principal of Centennial Elementary School in Olympia, where she served for nearly 20 years. Hallmarks of her tenure there included improved student achievement, innovative programs and an emphasis on parental involvement.
Her efforts at Centennial Elementary brought her three nominations for Principal of the Year in Thurston County, honors she respectfully turned down based on a belief that what was achieved at the school was a team effort.
For five years after her time at Centennial Elementary until the present, Bigelow has worked as a consultant. In that capacity, she has worked as a coach for principals and teachers for schools, districts and classrooms that need assistance with staff relations, curriculum development and school improvement initiatives.
As she recalled her time at Centennial Elementary, Bigelow said working with the community and the children is what prompted her to get back to leading an elementary school.
While she enjoyed her consulting work, Bigelow said she didn’t get to the long-term results of her work in that she had to move on after her consulting duties were complete.
“And I missed it,” she said of witnessing a child’s growth in education.
In addition, she wanted a new challenge in a new community.
Despite some concerns that Gig Harbor Academy wouldn’t be interested in her because her background largely was in public education, she didn’t let that stop her.
“I applied because I was very interested,” she said. “They (Gig Harbor Academy) were reaching out and looking.”
Her decision to apply worked out.
“I love getting to know the families and the children and watching them grow,” she said.
That sense of community also helped to draw her to Gig Harbor Academy.
“That community support isn’t just right here on campus ... so it’s a very close community that values that family atmosphere, that intimacy,” Bigelow said.Reporter Brett Davis can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_brett.