“We believe that work and effort create success” is the school motto that Principal Linda Leib, Ed.D., created when she arrived at Brandywine-Wallace Elementary School in 2010. “Effort is a big deal here,” Leib states. Every month each teacher submits one name of a student who has shown exceptional effort in the classroom that is not tied to how smart the student is, but based strictly on how much effort he or she has put forth. That student then receives a certificate, a restaurant gift card, and each student’s name is announced during the morning broadcast program.
With over 550 students enrolled at Brandywine-Wallace, Leib has a big job. “Sometimes when I am stressed from the everyday challenges of my job, I walk into a classroom and just sit in the back. The kids really are the best part of my job,” states Leib. She points out that the students are always so excited to see her. “It changes your whole perspective.”
Not only does she visit the students in the classrooms, but she also invites them to have lunch with her in the principal’s conference room. The students think that’s a big deal because it makes them feel special. She has learned a lot from the students by listening, just letting them talk during lunch. Leib conveys that she silently chuckles when she receives phone calls from parents inquiring why their son or daughter was eating lunch with the principal. They typically ask whether there is “something that they should know.” She assures them that the lunch is a good thing.
Growing up in northern New Jersey, Leib graduated from Douglas College (the former women’s college of Rutgers) with a degree in Biology, but she was always interested in teaching. She later decided to pursue a degree in Education and enrolled at Immaculata for her master’s degree and teaching certification, graduating in 1998. She eventually earned her principal’s certification, and in 2014 she received her Doctor of Education from Immaculata as well. “People were genuinely thrilled for me when I turned in my dissertation,” she said,
noting the friendly and supportive atmosphere she found at the University.
Leib admits that these are tough times for the education industry. School districts are hiring fewer Education majors, and although Leib believes that accountability is important, she finds testing and assessment very demanding.
“I see what our kindergarten students are expected to be able to do and it is nothing like what I did—no nap time!” she states. However, she adds, the kindergartners respond to these new demands, get into a rhythm, and simply plunge forward.
Like her kindergarten students, Leib had to respond to the demands of her new job soon after she first arrived at Brandywine-Wallace. She was the principal for only four days when she received a call at home on a Sunday: one of her first-grade students had died. Leib was so new to the school that she didn’t even know how to retrieve the phone numbers of the first-grade class so that she could call them. By chance, this deceased student was one of the few whom Leib had met during her first week, so that provided a connection when she talked with the family of the student.
“However, the students are resilient. It was incredible to see how they processed the passing of a student,” she said. Even though the children are learning at a young age that life is demanding, Leib finds them inspiring in
every way. “They are the reason I come to school each day!”