ROCK VALLEY—Patti Kruger has had a positive experience at Rock Valley Elementary since she stepped into the role of principal on July 1.
“It’s just a great fit for me,” Kruger said. “It’s been good. This school is a great size for me.”
Kruger, 58, has been in education for more than 30 years. She grew up in Edgerton, MN, and earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary and physical education from Northwestern College in Orange City.
“I was familiar with northwest Iowa from that time,” she said.
After graduating, she taught various elementary grade levels in Marshall, MN, for about 20 years while she and her husband, Kelly, raised their three children.
They then moved to Alamosa, CO, for her husband’s work. Kruger continued teaching in Alamosa and eventually became the assistant principal at Ortega Middle School, a position she held for two years.
Kruger and her husband found their way back to N’West Iowa in 2016, when she became an elementary principal in the LeMars School District.
“We wanted to get back closer to our parents and our extended family,” she said.
Since joining the Rock Valley School District, Kruger has worked to build relationships with people in the community.
“When you come in and you don’t know anyone, the most important thing to do is to start building those relationships and the rapport with both teachers and students,” she said.
“I didn’t come in with a whole list of things I’m going to change because it’s important to be here and listen and learn from the people who are here and then work to make changes along the way.”
She explained knowing who the right person to talk to about day-to-day school topics such as curriculum or transportation is an especially important part of her job. Learning names and faces has proved easier for her at Rock Valley than at the previous school districts she was at because all the grades are located under one roof.
“Wherever I was a principal before — and assistant principal in Colorado — we were in all different buildings,” she said.
A typical day at school for Kruger ranges from finding substitute teachers to meeting with parents in the district about concerns they have. She also meets with other school administrators for professional development and planning for the district.
“It’s kind of a mixture of what I would call the nitty-gritty, everyday things, with more long-term planning,” Kruger said.
She is looking forward to having a full year of being with the Rock Valley School District under her belt, since that will leave her better informed about the district and any potential changes that need to be made.
“The first year really is a lot of listening and learning and hearing people,” Kruger said. “Then it’s easier to sit down with teachers and other staff and talk about what we would like to change or if we want to change this or that.”
She replaced longtime principal Dan Ortman, who resigned toward the end of the 2018-19 academic year but continued to perform administrative duties for the district until Dec. 31.