A Soaring Sit Down with PIC 2021 Cohort Member Principal Jade Hobbs
By Steven Santoyo, PIC Communications & Marketing Fellow
It’s not every day a person gets to be a principal within the same metroplex they studied in as a child. This is a reality for Jade Hobbs, current principal at Giddens-Steadham Elementary School in Garland ISD. Ms. Hobbs became a principal at Steadham Elementary in 2018 after teaching pre-algebra and algebra I for seven years, teaching 6th-grade math and coaching for one year on the elementary level, and working as an assistant principal for three years. Being a pandemic-era principal has its highs and lows; however, the Steadham Elementary Eagles still find unique ways to soar.
“Being a principal during the pandemic, you had to be very flexible,” Principal Hobbs said. “ I do believe we evolve through adversity. That’s when we transition to that next level.”
As educators this past school year across the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex worked together to redesign, reopen, and rethink schooling, Principal Hobbs credits her involvement with PIC as an invaluable resource during a time of need. As part of her time with PIC, Principal Hobbs created a design project around equity on her campus. Her project opened the opportunity to assess which aspects of campus life needed refining and were already on their way to achieving equity for all.
“My design project is not just equity from a race standpoint,” Principal Hobbs stated. “I have students with dyslexia, autism, and ones from various diverse backgrounds. As a staff, it’s important to have empathy and to embrace kids by letting them know they’re unique and special. [Telling students] ‘No matter where you come from, you bring something special to bring to the table’ can spark a light that evolves into something special over time.”
In addition to ensuring systems are in place for all students to feel they’re learning in a “resilient, courageous, and dedicated” space, Principal Hobbs manages an array of partnerships with local businesses, community groups, and adult volunteers. With 14 clubs and counting on campus, Principal Hobbs views her campus less like a brick-and-mortar school building and more like a unified village of teachers, students, families, and community members. The “village mentality,” as she coined it, invites scores of people from various walks of life, prioritizing student learning and achievement along the way.
“One of the things I like to say to every new staff member or whenever I meet new parents or have students transfer in is the phrase, ‘Welcome to the village.”
Principal Hobbs continued, “I believe this village mentality is rooted in an entire community of people that must interact with children for those children to grow in a safe and healthy environment. I believe for us to create an environment like that, we have to be able to provide them opportunities.”
From winning their first award in robotics in only its first year to a non-profit group donating fertilizer to the pre-K through the first-grade garden club, students find their tribe within the village community at Steadham Elementary. Principal Hobbs’s advice to any campus principal searching for ways to support their faculty and staff members to be more interested in volunteering their time to leading clubs and organizations on campus is to learn more about each of their strengths and passions. Most, if not all, of the clubs on her campus came about because a teacher was empowered to ask her if a club could be started for students on campus. As the village leader, she embraces every request.
“I’ve learned there are things you can teach through clubs that you can’t always teach in the classroom,” Principal Hobbs noted. “We believe in building the whole kid. Yes, it’s about academics, but it’s also about giving kids the right opportunities to thrive.”
Clubs at her campus include but are not limited to those that offer students to have fun, be creative, and develop “character” and leadership skills often discovered in middle or high school. Students at her campus have participated in financial literacy sessions during career day courtesy of the Credit Union of Texas, spear-headed pajama drives with local nursing homes, hosted a carnival as an incentive for students who showed growth or mastery on standardized tests, danced, and won awards, participated in various multicultural events, and even learned about finding purpose and a life of servant leadership in the Men and Women of Honor club. While some may first think of clubs as an extra responsibility that takes time away from classroom instruction, Principal Hobbs sees every interaction with students and any moment of redirection as an opportunity to create a spark within a young mind.
“We had an incident where some kids kept pulling out the Pokemon cards in class,” Principal Hobbs said. “And they kept playing with them, so one of the teachers said, ‘you know what, I like Pokemon, how about I start a Pokemon club? Perfect, so now instead of just playing with it in class, you can come after school and play Pokemon cards with me.’”
Principal Hobbs is grateful to her PIC network for giving her the tools and resources to lead with empathy and understanding. While she acknowledges that no single person had an entirely positive time throughout the pandemic, she still would describe the village she works within as “resilient, courageous, and dedicated.” However, her time juggling her campus responsibilities and her PIC cohort experience changed her for the better.
“One great thing I love about PIC is that it helped me find who I was as a leader. I think sometimes we lead and don’t always understand the why behind our actions; we do them. PIC helped me figure out who I am as a leader and what I bring to the table so I can help my staff and help evolve them,” Principal Hobbs admitted.
“I love that PIC brought in the component of ‘you’ve got to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.’ I guess I knew those things, but I never really paid attention to them until I went through these PIC sessions and understood that important balance. Now that I have this new approach [from PIC], we will be much more intentional with things we do in the future to ensure we build the kind of culture we want.”
Looking forward to this school year, Principal Hobbs is excited to see how much higher her Eagles can fly. With breaking turnout at many of her newly returned in-person events, such as Grandparents Day and grade promotion ceremonies, she sees community stakeholders are invested in the resurgence of campus traditions. Ultimately, Principal Hobbs operates from a family-centered approach and advises all campus leaders in North Texas to do the same.
Always keep kids first,” Principal Hobbs stated. “Keep what’s best for kids in the forefront, and don’t ever stop growing. Sit back, learn, and be okay with being vulnerable with those around you and in your PIC cohort. Listen and learn. As long as you keep growing and evolving and always keep what’s best for kids in the forefront, you will be amazing at whatever you do.”
To keep up with Principal Hobb’s leadership journey, feel free to like Giddens-Steadham Elementary School on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @ jrhobb01. Be sure to also follow The Principal Impact Collaborative (PIC) at UNT Dallas on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @PICatUNTD.
Photos Courtesy of Giddens-Steadham Elementary School Facebook Page
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