Gracemarie Howland always had heard great things about Lakeview Middle School and how it is Orange County Public Schools' best-kept secret.
Now she has a chance to experience the school firsthand as the new principal for the 2017-18 school year, which begins Monday, Aug. 14.
“My strength is I'm passionate about what we do,” Howland said. “I enjoy being around children. My entire career as an educator has been school based. ... There's something about being around students and watching them grow and reach their goals. … It's nice to come back to the middle school.”
There are so many more opportunities available to today's middle-schoolers, and Howland's philosophy for teaching this age is to start guiding them early on their career path.
“It's a positive that we have high school-level courses because it gets them thinking early on what they want to do with the rest of their lives – their career goals,” she said.
Howland tells the story of a student who didn't want to meet with her guidance counselor; she wanted to speak directly to Howland. The girl, who desires to be a neurosurgeon, even called Howland for scheduling advice when the administrator transferred to a different school.
“Just watching her grow through the years — you can't get any better than that, when you see a student know what they want and go for it; and then those who don't know what they want, to steer them and guide them in the right direction,” she said.
Howland has been employed by OCPS for 34 years, spending her first 11 as a teacher at Memorial Middle School and 21 total in the classroom and as a resource teacher. She returned there last year as the principal.
Prior to her most recent assignment, she served as assistant principal at Dr. Phillips High, where she was in charge of instruction, as well as at Evans, Edgewater and Oak Ridge high schools.
She was named Teacher of the Year at Memorial Middle and Assistant Principal of the Year for OCPS while at Edgewater High.
Howland has elementary education and exceptional education degrees from the University of Vermont and a master's degree in administration from the University of Central Florida. She lives in Lockhart and has two children, Michelle and Patrick, who is an Orange County resource teacher.
Lakeview was built in 1927 and is celebrating its 90th anniversary. The previous principal had created a museum at the school with the framed early class photographs that once hung in the main hallway; Howland would like to put the old photos back on the walls and create a display to celebrate nine decades of education — past, present and future.
“When I talk to people and say I'm at Lakeview, so many people say, there's so much history there,” the principal said. “I'm excited to be here and watch it grow.”
This year's theme is “Inspiring each other to be better.”
“We can always be better,” she said.
Contact Amy Quesinberry at [email protected].