Throughout Lisa Mank's life, she has known she has wanted to work in the educational field. When she was a young child, Mank dreamed of being a teacher. Years later, when she was in high school, Mank enjoyed giving piano lessons to elementary school students. In college, her education mentors inspired her to become a school administrator.
Now Mank finds herself as the new principal of Cunningham Park Elementary in Vienna, after serving as assistant principal at Wolftrap Elementary for four years, and after being an elementary school teacher at Camelot Elementary and North Springfield Elementary before Wolftrap.
"I love it," said the Oakton resident. "The school is such a match for me. What's wonderful is the teachers and the level of commitment. It's such a neighborhood-oriented, family school."
Mank spent most of her earlier childhood in Colorado Springs, where her father served in the Air Force. When Mank was in eighth grade, her family moved to Northern Virginia. She graduated from Lake Braddock Secondary in 1988s and majored in business and elementary education at Mary Washington College.
It was at Mary Washington that Mank had mentors whose work in the education administration field encouraged her to explore that career possibility.
"I saw the impact they had on students," Mank said. "I saw they had such an impact on parents and the community. I really wanted to follow in their footsteps."
Equipped with the knowledge that she wanted to be a teacher or an administrator, Mank got a master’s degree at Virginia Tech and began student teaching in Fairfax County public schools.
"It's definitely a rewarding feeling as a teacher to see the students change year after year," said Mank.
Five years ago, Mank became assistant principal at Wolftrap Elementary in Vienna. At Wolftrap, Mank instituted the school's ethics program, Character Counts. She had also served as principal for summer schools at Marshall Road and Vienna elementaries.
Mank started as principal at Cunningham Park Elementary last October but also had a brief stint as Freedom Hill Elementary's assistant principal in September.
"She's very energetic," said Wolftrap principal Virginia Mahlke. "She's very warm and open. She knows the elementary instruction program very well. She is very dedicated. Whatever she sets out to do, she does very well."
AT CUNNINGHAM PARK, Mank hopes to reach out to the neighborhood that her 360-student school serves. She said that she would also like to maintain the school's high level of achievement, as well as find a business partner who could help upgrade the school's computer labs and technology.
Mank said she also wants to continue the school's professional learning communities program, in which teachers of the same subject and different grade levels can have scheduled time during the week to track their students' progress.
"We loved her. She was darling," said Karen Bybee of Vienna, a former Wolftrap parent. "She was so personable with the children. She was always smiling. She knew their names."
Bybee recalled how her son, a kindergartner, had a rough transition to elementary school. Mank would take her son into her office and cheer him up.
"She just had a way with the kids that was very caring, very compassionate, very professional, that the kids responded to her," Bybee said.