“My management style is to study where I’m at, ask questions, see if we can’t improve it and figure out what we need to do to take it to the next level.”
— Catherine Allie, principal, Potomac Elementary School
Ever since she was an elementary school student, Catherine Allie knew that she wanted to be an educator.
“When I was 8 or 9 years old, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher,” said Allie. “I get an excitement from learning something new. Along the way I had many teachers who inspired me.”
At the start of this school year, she took the helm at Potomac Elementary School. Each morning, during the chaos of carpool drop off, Allie is at the center of the crowd, making it a point to greet parents and students at the start of the school day.
Getting to know students and teachers on a personal level is part of her management style, and her inclination to be visible and hands-on has been well received.
“Parents are loving that she’s directing the cars at carpool,” said Jill Trone, Parent Teachers Association president. “She’s really engaged in what’s going on in her school.
“Dr. Allie has really made an effort to get to know the students and teachers here,” Trone continued. “She’s very accessible and is a great problem solver. Whenever I’ve contacted her, she’s gotten back to me right away and deals with issues quickly and efficiently.”
Trone, a mother of six, has children in first and fifth grades at Potomac Elementary School. She has been a parent at the school for 13 years. “I’m really enjoying working with her,” said Trone. “We have a well run school and I’m happy that she’s happy. She’s the whole package.”
Allie hopes to increase communication between administrators, teachers and parents.
“My management style is to study where I’m at, ask questions, see if we can’t improve it and figure out what we need to do to take it to the next level,” said Allie. “How can I help teachers be innovative and creative? I’m looking at the talent that already exists and seeing how we can take it to the next level.”
Parents have noticed that Allie is methodical in her approach. “She respects that we had a good foundation,” said Trone. “She’s not making huge changes right now. She’s making some necessary changes. She’s getting the lay of the land and waiting before she does anything major. We’re looking forward to how we can make our school better and she’s definitely the person for the job.”
Allie plans to expand the use of technology in the classroom and integrate the use of Chromebook computers. (Chromebooks rely on apps and a cloud.) She has established a Twitter account for the school (@PotomacMustangs), which she uses to update parents on daily happenings. Postings include photos of class projects, teacher bulletin boards and school events.
Earlier in her career, Allie worked as a teacher at Seven Locks Elementary School, also in Potomac. She has held several assistant principal and assistant superintendent positions. Most recently, she was a principal at Walden Elementary School in Prince George’s County. She has also served as co-president and secretary of the Asian American Educators Association.
Allie holds a bachelor of science degree in elementary school from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.; a master of arts degree in education administration from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and a doctor of education degree in urban leadership from Bowie State University.
Teachers who have worked under Allie in the past say she inspires them.
“She helped me recognize and have confidence in my strengths as a teacher,” said Kristin Childers of Whetstone Elementary School in Gaithersburg. “She helped me to see that I am a great teacher. … To this day, she still encourages me.
“The one thing that I believed that she reinforced is to never lower your expectations for students,” Childers said. “Keep up your expectations and no matter where the students come from or their what their background is, the kids will live up to them.”
Meanwhile, Allie is settling into her new position. “It’s been a wonderful welcome,” she said. “The parents and PTA have been wonderful and supportive. I’ve really enjoyed meeting parents in the community and getting to know families. “I really feel that Potomac Elementary School is a special place.”