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New middle school principal is a familiar face

Byron Center — Abby Kanitz, who will begin as the new West Middle School principal July 1, has loved watching seventh- and eighth-graders grow and thrive during her time as assistant principal at the school.

“We only have our students for two years and it goes fast,” she said. “However, the amount of growth that we see in our students during their time at West Middle is remarkable. I love seeing them change and grow closer to the adults they will one day become. They are navigating a very busy world, all while trying to figure out who they are. 

“These are very important and special years in these kids’ lives and it is a blessing to have a hand in their growth.”

Kanitz will replace Jeff Wierzbicki, who was recently hired as the district’s assistant superintendent.

“As the principal, I look forward to continuing the work we have been doing here at West,” she said. “If I am very honest, I look forward to things being slightly more ‘normal’ again — all kids in the building every day, face-to-face teaching, in-person meetings, parents in the building, events at night. We will get there! However, regardless of this pandemic, our staff continues to rise to every challenge. 

“I look forward to working with our staff in navigating education — no matter what it looks like — to do what’s best for our students and to keep all the great things at West going in a positive direction.”

Kanitz, who began as assistant principal in 2017, previously taught science at Thornapple Kellogg High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and master’s degree in educational leadership from Grand Valley State University.

During her time as assistant principal, Kanitz helped with professional development planning, orchestrated extended learning programs, collaborated on district curriculum projects and was instrumental in the day-to-day programming of the middle school. 

“I love learning from everyone here; they all have so much to offer,” she said. “It truly is an amazing place to work and I am humbled that I have been chosen to be their principal.”

Kanitz will work closely with Wierzbicki in planning for the 2021-2022 school year.

“Mrs. Kanitz brings an understanding of Byron Center Schools and the needs of middle school students,” said Superintendent Kevin Macina. “(She) has both the ability to support the academic achievement of the building and to focus on the social-emotional needs of students.”

Kanitz said she has grown as an educator during the pandemic, which has made her a stronger leader and taught her about the importance of being flexible.“We have had to bend, adjust, change, shift, tweak and move in every way possible this year,” she said. “It is not that I learned this, but rather, that it was reiterated for me: Byron Center has something very special in their schools and community. Our staff — all of our staff — have persevered for kids throughout this entire pandemic. The focus has always remained our students.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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