Introducing our first bi-monthly employee profile! Here we will highlight and learn from APS staff to gather inspiration and ideas for our own career paths. APS has great leaders, teachers, school and central office staff as well as support staff at every level who contribute so much to make APS successful and enrich the education of our students. This new feature will allow us to shine a spotlight on them.
What better way to start than with Bridget Loft, principal, Yorktown High School, during Principal Appreciation Week? Read below to find out who inspires her, what she’s reading and her best advice for anyone aspiring to a similar role.
Principal, Yorktown High School
Loft started her career as a teacher at Wakefield High School and then moved to Miami for a short time, where she served as an office manager for an environmental services company. While there, she realized her true passion was in education and knew she wanted to work towards a more meaningful mission. She came back to APS and found that meaning working with students.
Loft has built a rewarding career at APS serving in a variety of roles for nearly 30 years. A former APS Principal of the Year honoree, and now in her second year as principal at Yorktown, Loft is making a huge difference for students, staff and the community.
Can you share more about your career path and roles at APS?
I started as a social studies teacher at Wakefield in 1992 and stayed in that role for roughly six years. I was very fortunate to have great mentors during that time and pursued several leadership opportunities while teaching. I helped lead the Senior Project and Block Schedule efforts. Those experiences helped me grow and fueled my interest in leadership.
I also went through the George Mason APS Cohort and applied for secondary jobs. I got an assistant principal job at Swanson Middle School and loved it. I was uncertain about middle school, but I found the infrastructure to be great and supportive of the whole child. I stayed for four years and really drank the middle school Kool-Aid! From there, I diversified my experience by applying to be the assistant principal at Wakefield and then became Swanson principal for six years.
The transition from middle school to high school was not a huge leap, but I would say that in high school, the issues and consequences feel bigger and I am constantly learning. It has been quite a journey! It’s ironic because the Wakefield principal at the time, Dr. Marie Djouadi, strongly advised me not to pursue a high school principal career path – I think she thought I’d be a good curriculum supervisor. But here I am! I do love it.
What does a “day in the life” of a high school principal look like?
This can’t be defined. I start the day with an idea of what I want to accomplish and then there’s a fire in the bathroom or a staff member that doesn’t show. There are always unexpected opportunities to address new challenges. I come in ready for anything. Many days start at 7 a.m. and end at 9:30 p.m. I am constantly running and never bored. It’s a stimulating job, and I don’t mind giving my time because I know this is meaningful work. Serving kids is a true privilege.
Name a leader or mentor who inspired you and influenced your career.
I have several. Here are three that stand out:
- The first was Marie Djouadi, the first principal I worked for at Wakefield. She taught me the value of being decisive and proactive. She was a former nun, and you definitely didn’t want her to back you into a corner! She really fostered teacher leadership in many ways and gave us the flexibility to pursue our interests. She always listened to all perspectives and then made a clear decision. We appreciated that.
- I also really admire Chris Willmore, current principal at Wakefield, and have learned so much from him. He has tremendous relationships with students. He is present for them and engages authentically with kids. He is really and truly there to effect positive change for kids. He does it the best.
- Also, Gregg Robertson, principal at W-L. He has taught me so much about how to manage a large institution by delegating and trusting your people. Also about being unflappable in the midst of significant issues.
If you weren’t a principal, what would be your dream job?
This is my dream job. But seriously, I wanted to be the President of the United States! I don’t want that job now.
What are you reading now? What’s the best book you’ve read over the past year?
I am currently reading “Becoming” by Michelle Obama. I am a fan already, so she was set up for success, but I do love the book. Politics aside, I so admire her commitment to the country, self-sacrifice and work towards the betterment of all people.The best book I’ve read in the past year is called “Station 11” and it’s a dystopian future book. It’s not my usual wheel house but I love it. It’s by Emily St. John Mandel.
What is your advice for anyone pursuing a principal role?
- You need to be able to write well and fast. Be proactive in your communication.
- Public speaking is also important. If you can talk to a crowd in a cogent way and throw in humor, you’ll go far.
- Also, know your weaknesses and surround yourself with people who compensate for them.
I always say – don’t surprise me and don’t embarrass me, and I will go to the mat for you.
Trusting your people is really important.
Thank you Bridget! If you have a nomination for a future spotlight, please contact Catherine Ashby at Catherine.firstname.lastname@example.org