Ask Christy Gorberg what she finds most gratifying as an elementary school principal, and she'll tell you the story of the first-grader and the golden bicycle.
The new principal of SunRidge Elementary School learned of a young student who was having problems in class, and after talking to him she realized he just needed a little incentive. She gave him a sticker sheet, to be filled when he did his assigned work and was on his best behavior.
Once it was completed, he would receive his prize: a bicycle to replace his old, broken one. Last week, he earned the bike — which had been sitting in Gorberg’s garage since her son had outgrown it. And on Friday he was presented with his gift, which he had dubbed the golden bike.
“He's turned it around,” she said. “He's done great since I've come here, and that's really special to me to be able to make that impact. He's worked very hard, and his smile will light up the room.”
Gorberg was working as a senior administrator with Orange County Public Schools's West Learning Community when she was assigned to SunRidge Elementary as acting principal in January. She replaced Janice Quint, who retired in December after opening the school in 2012.
Gorberg was officially named the school’s principal two weeks ago. One of the school's first programs following her appointment was a collaboration with a new West Orange County movement called Project 4:29 that takes a proactive stance against bullying. The ceremony was held last Wednesday in the middle of the school's Kindness Week.
Students spent a week learning about kindness and putting it to practice; Gorberg's office is full of drawings and notes from them.
“Our thought was this was a positive way to go out into the summer, go out on a positive note,” Gorberg said. “(Project 4:29 organizers) have brought some ideas for carrying the momentum in the summer and for coming back in the fall.”
When the new principal arrived at SunRidge, she made a few slight changes, including opening the computer lab for students in the morning and adding tutoring sessions.
Prior to serving at the West Learning Community level, Gorberg worked at several local high schools, including Ocoee and Olympia.
“It’s been an interesting transition from the high school level, where I’ve spent much of my career,” she said.
Because of the high school experience and working with teenagers, she said she feels like she has “the big picture.”
“I see where they’re going to be in 10 years,” she said of the elementary students.
Community and communication are key for producing successful students, Gorberg said.
“Yes, our job is to teach them how to read, write, do math, but we also have to teach them to be good members of society (with) good character traits,” she said. “We want this to be a happy place, a safe place. We’re just trying to get more of the parents and the community involved. We had a really good turnout for our field day, and they hadn't really done that before, and we had a good number of parents come out and spend the day with their kids.”
Gorberg has also increased SunRidge’s presence on social media. The school adds frequent positive posts on Facebook and uses it as another tool for disseminating information to parents.
Gorberg graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Social Science Education in 2000 and first taught social studies at Winter Park High. At Olympia, she taught the same course and then was a dean and resource teacher, all the while leading the student government program and coaching the lacrosse team.
She was an assistant principal at the Colonial High Ninth-Grade Center before spending five years as assistant principal of instruction at Ocoee High.
Gorberg obtained her master’s degree from Stetson University in 2004.
An Ocoee resident, Gorberg has been married for 15 years and has a son in fifth grade at Westbrooke Elementary. He will attend SunRidge Middle in the fall.
Gorberg said the teachers and staff and parents have been very welcoming and helped her settle quickly in her new position.
“It's very much a family here, and I'm very happy to be part of it,” she said. “”I’m just trying to do the right thing for kids, kid by kid.”