Susan Wachtel, a longtime teacher in the Las Virgenes Unified School District, was named principal of Bay Laurel Elementary School in Calabasas.
Dan Stepenosky, LVUSD assistant superintendent of personnel, welcomed Wachtel to the school district’s management team during a recent board of education meeting.
Wachtel was a speech and language pathologist at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute, Northridge Hospital and in private practice before she became a teacher.
Stepenosky said Wachtel was a student teacher at Bay Laurel before she accepted a teaching position at Sumac Elementary for one year. For the past 14 years, she taught first grade at White Oak Elementary School in Westlake Village.
Wachtel’s experience in education is broad, Stepenosky said. At White Oak she directed the Response to Intervention program, an early intervention program for children who have difficulty learning or behavior problems.
“The main goal is to assist children early so that they may succeed and will not be in need of special education,” Wachtel said.
Wachtel was also on the committee for the Step Up To Writing program, which was introduced districtwide a few years ago. All teachers and aides were taught the program to use in classrooms, and parents also learned about the methods which broaden how students approach writing in many genres.
The Step Up To Writing program was the first of many writing programs Wachtel helped develop for the district. She recently helped create districtwide methods of evaluating student writing.
“This year we brought representatives of each grade level together to begin the process of reviewing district writing assessments and collecting ‘anchor papers’ (from students),” she said. The papers will be used as benchmarks by teachers to score writing assignments. “This will provide consistency in grading across the district,” she said.
Wachtel says that as principal she wants to “continue the extraordinary work done at Bay Laurel by the dynamic staff and involved community.”
“We hold a common belief that children come first and that decisions are based on what is best for the child’s academic and emotional well-being,” she said.
While the current economic downturn will be a challenge, Wachtel said she fully expects the Bay Laurel staff to continue being “resourceful and dedicated to sustaining an educational program that is both rigorous and relevant.”
“Their creativity will help us through this time as we develop ways to do more with less,” she said.
Wachtel said she has already met with Stacy Alperson, the parent-faculty association president, who assured her that together they will do what is needed to ensure the success of students.
Challenges aside, Wachtel looks forward to being a positive force in the lives of children.
“As a principal, I now have the ability to touch that many more children’s lives,” she said. “That is pure joy.”