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Opening a New School

Arlene Glaser cannot remember ever wanting to be anything other than a teacher.

The principal of the future Countryside Elementary School played school as a child and studied education in college, wanting to be around children once she graduated. "I get rejuvenated from them," she said. "When they learn something, they are so excited, it comes back to me."

Glaser taught elementary schoolchildren for more than 20 years and served as an assistant principal and principal for another six years, also at elementary schools. In 1965 after she received a bachelor's degree from the University of Connecticut, she taught fourth grade and science courses for three-and-a-half years at a Manhattan public school.

At that point, Glaser taught at three New York elementary schools for three years and took 10 years off to raise three children before moving to Nashville, Tenn. with her husband of 37 years, Jeff Glaser, who is an information technology (IT) recruiter.

In Nashville, Glaser taught kindergarten for seven years, then in 1991, she took a teaching position at Arcola Elementary School after moving to Fairfax County. A year later, she taught at Algonkian Elementary School until 1997, when she became an assistant principal there. She earned a master's degree in education leadership in 1996 from George Mason University.

In 1998, Glaser became principal at Sterling Elementary School, where she remained until January of this year. She started at Countryside Elementary School on Jan. 22.

"I decided it was time to think about something else and change my direction to make a bigger impact on children," said Glaser about her decision to become a school principal.

GLASER WANTS to be able to help create a school environment and facilitate a school culture at Countryside Elementary School which is near Algonkian Elementary School. "It's like coming back," said the Ashburn resident. "I know the community. I know the area well."

Glaser plans to create a child-centered environment. "If it's right for children, it's right for us," she said, adding that the staff she is hiring includes teachers who can understand different learning styles and encourage children to be actively involved in the learning process. She began interviewing at the end of January.

"The faculty was like an extended family and still is," said Clark Bowers, assistant principal at Sterling Elementary School, about Glaser's influence there. She "promoted the fact we're in this together. We have to look out for each other keeping kids first."

As the school's instructional leader, Glaser plans to devise instruction plans and help teachers implement instructional practices, along with mentoring teachers on developing their teaching skills.

"She has the open-door policy, so you always feel welcome," said Sandra Shipp, a bookkeeper who transferred with Glaser from Sterling to Countryside elementary school. "For the staff, she's there for them. ... She's wonderful to work with. That's one of the reasons I was happy to come with her."

THE OPEN-DOOR policy applies to students as well, Shipp said. "The kids just love her," she said. "She's out every morning to greet the children, that was from the first day. At the end of the day, she was out there again."

Though Glaser now can influence more children, she said she misses the closer relationship she developed with students in the classes she taught. So, she plans to get to know the names of the 560 students slated to attend the school this fall, visit their classrooms and read to them whenever she gets the chance.

"I miss those kids," Glaser said.

Bowers expects Glaser to bring the school community together during the first year. "She'll have the school up and running, and this won't even seem like the first year," he said.

The Glasers have two adult sons and a daughter and two granddaughters.