Principal appreciation month observed at Whitney ISD

Reporter: Ellie Mahan

November 3, 2021

Since October was Principal Appreciation Month, we thought we would help readers get to know the principals of Whitney schools just a little bit better. We’re kicking off November with a question and answer session with the leaders that Wildcat students see every day at school.

Amber Seely has been the principal of WES for five years. She is in her 17th year in education, spending two of those years teaching kindergarten in Hillsboro and the remaining 15 in Whitney, where she taught kindergarten and first grade before becoming the principal. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Sciences and a Master’s degree in Educational Administration, both from Tarleton State University.

What made you want to go into education?
“I want to make a difference in the life of a child. My goal every year is to help inspire children to do their best. I believe we have the responsibility to help children see their potential. Every day we help students develop their social, emotional and academic skills to help them meet their goals and be successful. Education is one of the most rewarding careers because you become part of developing the future citizens of our community.”

What do you enjoy about working with the age group of students that you work with?
“I love the enthusiasm and creativity of our young students. It is inspiring to watch young children problem solve and work through situations to learn new skills. They have a natural desire to create and analyze situations.”

What is your favorite holiday, and why?
“I love everything about Christmas. The beautiful music, festive decorations, and family traditions make it the most joyful time of the year. My family enjoys gathering with family and friends, baking cookies, watching holiday movies and enjoying the beautiful hymns, celebrating the birth of Jesus.”

This is Russell Gauer’s eighth year as principal of WIS, and he has been an assistant principal or principal for 13 years. Before going into administration, he was a coach for six years and a science teacher for 12 years. He has been working in education for 25 years with 21 of those years in Whitney ISD. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology, a Master of Education degree in Physical Education, and a principal certification.

Russell wanted to give special thanks to the intermediate school office staff for taking care of many daily operations that keep the campus running smoothly. He said, “Those ladies put in many hours each week and do a phenomenal job at our school. I also want to thank our teachers, counselor and support staff for all they do to encourage and support our students.”

What made you want to go into education?
“Originally I was a coach and science teacher and had aspirations of becoming an athletic director, but God took me in a different direction with a different leadership role. One of my high school coaches inspired me to go into the field of education. My wife, Jennifer, also helps me keep everything in perspective and is a huge supporter of me.”

If you had a yacht, what would you name it, and why?
“If I had a yacht, I would name it Seclusion. I would choose that name because one of my favorite things to do is bowhunt deer and feral hogs on our farm. Anytime I am out in the woods away from the normal daily routine it is therapeutic.”

What was your first job ever? Did you enjoy it?
“I grew up on our family farm which has been in our family for five generations. I will not say that I loved every minute of it growing up, but the older I get the more I value the work ethic that manual labor taught me when I was younger.”

This is Kendra Hensley’s first year as the principal of WMS. She is going on her 22nd year in education and has served in eight other districts. She came to Whitney from Athens Middle School, where she spent five years as the assistant principal. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Northwestern Oklahoma State University and a Master of Education degree from Stephen F. Austin University.

What do you enjoy about working with the age group of students you work with?
“Although I never thought middle school would be my niche, I have discovered that it is exactly where I belong. What I enjoy the most is watching students mature through the sixth through eighth grades. When students enter middle school in sixth grade, they’re trying to find their place. They aren’t ‘little kids’ anymore, but they’re not completely sure of themselves either. By the time they reach eighth grade, their maturity and confidence have grown and sending them to high school is bittersweet. Middle school students get my corny jokes, and sometimes they even laugh at them while they roll their eyes! Middle school students have a contagious excitement for life. I love helping middle school students navigate the changes in their emotions that naturally exist…”

What was your first job ever? Did you enjoy it? What did you learn from that experience?
“I was the daughter of a wheat farmer. My first job was working in the field for him. I did not enjoy it, but what I wouldn’t give for a long, hot day in the field with him now. Cutting and raking hay, disking a field, moving irrigation pipe, and taking care of the hogs, for example, were hot, stinky jobs. As a teen, I thought I had the worst life because not all my friends had to go work. The lessons I learned were priceless, though. I can look back and see what Daddy taught me about work ethic, the value of a dollar, the importance of helping others, and countless other life lessons through our work together. If I could talk to my teenage self, I’d tell her to be more grateful and make the best of it!”

What is your favorite thing about Whitney ISD?

“The support of families and the community is my favorite thing about Whitney ISD. It takes a village to raise our children, and I am so happy to partner with parents and community. This is my first year here, but I am so excited about the positive interactions I have had with families as we work together to educate our students. Great job, Whitney, TX!”

Amy Leech is in her sixth year as principal of WHS, and before she became principal she was the assistant principal for three years. She is in her 21st year of education. Her teaching career includes teaching kindergarten and first grade in several districts, including Dublin, Hillsboro and Whitney, and also teaching middle school English Language Arts in Laredo and Whitney. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and her Master’s degree in Educational Administration, both from Tarleton State University.

What do you enjoy about working with the age group of students you work with?
“I spent the early part of my career working with younger students and am so thankful I took the leap to high school. Working with this age group definitely has its challenges, but our students are fabulous. I can 100% say there is never a dull moment! I love building relationships with our kids, attending their extracurricular events, and being a part of their journey into adulthood.”

What is the most important thing that you hope to teach your students?
“The most important thing I hope they learn from me is that they are loved. Academics are important, but I want our students to know their worth and their potential in life. I am blessed to have a staff that shares the same values and who truly care about our kids.”

What was your first job ever? Did you enjoy it? What did you learn from that experience?
“My first ‘official’ job in high school was working part time at Prescription Pharmacy here in town during my senior year of high school. Before that, I cleaned house for my grandparents to earn extra spending money. I enjoyed both of these jobs and found I was happy working in jobs where I could serve and help others. I also learned the importance of a strong work ethic and positive attitude no matter what job I hold.”

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