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Music in the halls part of a fun, fresh start

Meet Your Administrator: Erin Anderson

Grand RapidsErin Anderson is the new principal at Westwood Middle School. SNN gets to know her in this edition of Meet Your Administrators.

Other positions you have held in education:

  • Substitute teacher
  • Guidance counselor and assistant high school principal, Kalamazoo Public Schools
  • Adjunct professor, English as a Second Language department, Aquinas College 

How about jobs outside education? “I provided in-home family counseling for Child Protective Services and investigated family abuse situations. As a teenager, I worked at the YMCA after school and at a residential facility for youth.” 

Education/degrees:

  • Bachelor’s degree, psychology with a minor in human growth and development, Ball State University, Indiana
  • Master’s, school counseling, University of St. Francis, Illinois
  • Administrative certification, Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals
Erin Anderson said students have taught her to slow down and listen

Family? “I am married and I have three bonus children: a senior, a freshman and a third-grader. I come from a background of educators. My sister is a principal and my mother was a teacher.”

Hobbies/interests: Anderson is an avid reader and admits to sometimes preferring YA books. She’s also a self-described Starbucks coffee addict, and has run seven half marathons and finished three sprint triathlons.

And, “I am a music person,” she said. “One of the things I do to incorporate who I am with the students is that we play music during every passing period. They always give me their music suggestions, and we embrace all of it here. I will do Spanish, jazz …  It’s been nice to respect and acknowledge the diversity we have in the building.”

What kind of kid were you at the age of students at this new school? “I was very active. In middle school, I was trying to figure out what I liked. I did band, choir and I played volleyball and basketball… I was very social, and still am. I always wanted to look for leadership roles in the school. If there was an ambassador role I would want to do that. I was always wanting to be in charge.”

Fun in the halls is obvious with Westwood Middle School Principal Erin Anderson and sixth-grader Nazier Thompson

The biggest lesson you have learned from students is… “They have a side too. Slowing down to hear their side is important. They can articulate it when you give them the opportunity. They just want to be heard. We, as adults, make the decision and tell them later. Half the time, if we got them on board to begin with, it would be better in the end. I think as adults we just need to slow down and listen.”

What is something you’re looking forward to this year? “We are doing things the Westwood way. We are excited to rebrand and get a fresh start and add some fun and energy. Like the music at passing periods, that’s been a nice piece. We are all gaining from good, new changes that are happening.”

If you could go back to school, you would return to… freshman year. If I knew what I know now, I would take advantage of some of the opportunities that I didn’t, to explore different things. I did a lot, but I also kind of pigeon-holed myself a little bit with the group I hung with. I would take advantage of the resources I had then to expand my branches a little more.”

If you walked into your new school building to theme music by a favorite artist or band, what would it be? “I did this activity with my staff! We chose our baseball walk-up songs. Mine is ‘Break My Soul,’ by Beyoncé. It’s about not letting other people’s actions break you.”

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Erin Albanese
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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