Jefferson Principal Dr. Susan Yakich is being recognized as Elementary School Principal of the Year for Region 4 by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA). The award is specifically for ACSA’s region 4, which encompasses districts in Sonoma, Marin, Mendocino, Lake, Napa and Solano counties.

The award is meant to recognize administrators who strive for student achievement.

Yakich came to Cloverdale in the 2017-18 school year and is celebrating her 30th year in education. Throughout her career, Yakich has taught kindergarten, second grade, third grade and a fourth and fifth grade combination class, as well as held various administrative positions.

“Elementary age range is my favorite. I just like the littles,” she said. “It’s their first experience with school and you’re setting the foundation for their lifelong success. I do enjoy working with kids, but I also enjoy working with the staff and the parents as well — it takes all of us working together to support the kiddos.”

Yakich added that her favorite grade to teach was kindergarten.

To receive the award, someone had to nominate Yakich and letters of support had to be collected.

When asked what school accomplishments she’s most proud of over the past three years, Yakich highlighted various recent programs and efforts by the school.

“I think we’ve done a lot in the last three years with everyone’s help and support … We’ve been very focused on student learning and instructional programs and best practices. I’m very proud of our Club Connect that we have here two days a week,” Yakich said, adding that the program is a semi-finalist for the Jack London Education Innovation Award. “I’m proud that we now have a full time counselor to support our students, I’m proud of the fact that we now have our social and emotional learning curriculum and every day we start out with the principal's message and a morning meeting to set the tone for the day.

“I’m really proud of the work that our Caring School Community Committee is doing. They’re revamping our behavioral piece here where they’re creating a tiered level of support for behavior and social and emotional learning needs and that’s been a long time coming with a lot of hard work and sweat from our teachers,” she said.

Yakich also mentioned the school’s continued work with PTA and CARE as being highlights in her past three years at Jefferson.

Looking forward, she said that she hopes to continue much of the work that’s already going on at Jefferson to continue both professional development and the development of programs that are geared toward social and emotional learning, as well as reading.

“We’re going to continue our work with professional development because I think that’s key; because our students’ needs are ever-changing and so we need to continue to fill our toolbox up with lots of tools to meet the students,” she said. “We’re going to continue work with our renewal team — we’ve selected two goals to focus on as we move forward — social emotional learning and reading. Our next plan will be looking more closely at data and fine-tuning what in those two areas we need to work on and set goals together as a community.”

A champion of supporting social and emotional learning, Yakich said that one of the biggest challenges that schools are facing, and have faced, is figuring out how to support the social and emotional needs of students.

“The challenge isn’t just here in Cloverdale, this is the challenge our nation is facing — the social emotional learning needs of our students, supporting students who have had trauma in their life, supporting students who have had some major difficulties in their life and that’s going to impact their learning here. That is ever-changing and I don’t think we’re ever going to say, ‘We’ve got this,’ it’s going to be continually refining our practice to meet the needs of our students,” Yakich said.

While Yakich said that she’s honored to receive the award, she said that it’s more of a “community award,” and that she wouldn’t be able to do what she does without the help of teachers, parents and school staff.

“I’m honored to receive the award, but I feel like I’m receiving the award on behalf of our whole entire school community here,” Yakich concluded.

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