Gilbert principal returns from Harvard conference fired up for 2016-17

Gilbert Intemediate School principal Mary Laigle, shown receiving a core values medal from Stephenville ISD school board president Dr. Ann Calahan, was one of the principals presenting campus improvement plans to trustees during their regular monthly meeting Monday at Bond Auditorium. || Flash photo library


STEPHENVILLE (July 26, 2016) — Many teachers, principals and other educational faculty spend at least part of their summers preparing their classrooms and campuses for the next school year.

For Mary Laigle, preparations for the 2016-17 school year included a trip to Harvard University.

Laigle, entering her third year as principal at Gilbert Intermediate School in Stephenville, was selected to attend a prestigious principal’s conference at Harvard, and has returned home even more fired up for the school year ahead. She was even awarded a service medal by Stephenville ISD trustees and school board president Dr. Ann Calahan Monday, as superintendent Matt Underwood praised her for taking the initiative to get into the Harvard program.

But what Laigle wasn’t prepared for when she left for Cambridge, Massachusetts, was to be climbing trees and crossing cables.

“We started it all by going and doing a project adventure where we learned to collaborate and work together as a team,” said Laigle. “We had to climb 30 feet into a tree and a cross a line. It was kind of scary. I never planned to step out on a wire, but I got up there and just did it.”

The symbolic exercise in teamwork was just the beginning, with Laigle and other principals moving on to a more traditional conference setting where she learned from some of the nation’s top leaders in education.


Two subjects were especially beneficial to Laigle – reading and writing.

“We talked about reading and book-poor homes and how to get books into homes,” Laigle said. “Reading is such an integral part of the educational process, but so many children grow up without books to read. It’s sad really.”

They also discussed writing across the curriculum.

“Dr. (David R.) Henderson wrote a book on writing across the curriculum, and here we have done the Fundamental Five, which is supported in the T-Test, so one of the things we are practicing is critical writing. The more kids write, the more they absorb and learn,” she said. “He has some great techniques with five different types of writing that start off very small. It’s not all about essay writing. I really want to bring him here to work with our teachers.”

Laigle also attended sessions concerning subjects important to her own professional improvement.

“We talked about meetings, and how to stay on task and stay focused, things that help educators and the world outside education, as well,” she said. “It was about getting organized and staying focused on what direction I want my school to go in. We all know we’re going down the technology path, but I needed some help and direction because that’s a huge path.”

She said many things being taught at Harvard were reassuring.

“They were reassuring because I already see us going that way here in our district,” she said. “I can see it, and how it works, and that helps make me focus on what’s next.”

As with any such event, the biggest tool for future success is the people.

“Just the opportunity to meet with other people who share the same ideas and philosophies was huge,” she said. “I made connections so I can email or visit with them when something is going on, and we can collaborate on how to deal with things.”

Laigle couldn’t imagine a better way to get fired up for 2016-17, especially with her campus now fully involved in the iChampion technology in learning initiative.

“Absolutely I’m fired up,” she said. “I learned so many things that will help me here, and I can’t wait to put them to use at Gilbert.”

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