Young-Mi Kim glows when she talks about what she’s most looking forward to as the new principal at Wayside Elementary School: the arrival of the students.
“I just look forward to the children coming … When the children get here I think the building lives,” she said. “It gives me the shivers.”
Kim was selected in April to replace Interim Principal Ken Snoots who came out of retirement to fill in for former Principal former Suzette Chagnon when she went to Broad Acres Elementary last October.
A native of South Korea, Kim’s family immigrated to Prince George’s County when she was in the third grade. She graduated from high school there and attended the University of Maryland, where she started as a nursing student, but changed course after taking elective classes in education.
“I decided to take a couple of courses in education … and I basically fell in love with the children,” Kim said. “It took me to another level I guess as a person.”
She earned a master's degree at Bowie State University and taught in Montgomery County, before moving with her husband — then in the military — to Korea and Hawaii. She taught in both places before moving back to the Washington area where her husband is assigned as an FBI agent. She has taught at every elementary and middle school grade level except for seventh.
“I was fortunate enough to teach at different places and kind of find out what’s going around at different places,” Kim said.
But Wayside was an almost immediate match. Kim said she was lucky to be appointed in April, giving the opportunity to meet teachers, students, and outgoing administrators before the school year ended. Many principals aren’t appointed until mid-summer.
“I was very impressed with the caliber of the teachers here. When I talked to them individually they had nothing but great things to say about the parents and the students, and I thought wow, if I could be an administrator at a school that’s running at optimal and then put my little piece in. then we would have really something special going on,” Kim said.
KIM AND Assistant Principal Susan Zimmerman, another newcomer, plan to hit the ground running this year. The school has an solid organizational framework and high standard of achievement already in place, they said, giving them the opportunity to focus on fine-tuning through the Baldridge management process — underway at many county schools — and more effective teacher training.
“It’s just amazing to come into a school and to see that everything is running so well before you get here. That means that it can only get better — you don’t have to fix anything,” Zimmerman said.
Implementing Baldridge — a management process borrowed from the business world — will mean drawing up comprehensive visions of core values at the school, and drawing parents more closely into the school’s vision.
The school will also implement all-day kindergarten this year and will extend its advanced math offerings.
“Our math program is a strength here. … if there was one particular thing that we’re great in, that is our math program,” Kim said, noting that 60 fifth-graders will take math A and math B, the highest-level classes, this year, and that one student is busing to Hoover Middle School for math.
“There’s a potential for more students to have that opportunity, and maybe in the future have something like that here,” Kim said.
That attitude is typical of Kim, who is warm but maintains high standards, Zimmerman said.
“When she’s thinking about what’s best for the children, it’s always the best for the children is to have high expectations, never to say, ‘Well that’s good enough,’” she said.
Kim points to her personal history as motivating her in education.
“I think a lot of the success I’ve had is becomes of some of the teachers I’ve had, and their beliefs and their expectations of me,” she said. “The reason for my parents immigrating here in the first place was because of education.”
Family: She and her husband, an FBI agent, have sons Noah, 14, and Nathan, 16, both students at Roosevelt High School in Bowie.
Hometown: Born in Korea, but grew up in Lanham, Md. from the 3rd grade.
Lives in: Bowie, Md.
Experience: Assistant principal at Olney Elementary School and Greencastle Elementary School. Teacher at several Montgomery County schools, including Broad Acres Elementary School, Rock Creek Valley Elementary School and Silver Spring International Middle School, as well as in Hawaii and Korea.