This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website and the Southern Chester County Weeklies‘ website.
Education is something which has been flowing through Shawn Dutkiewicz’s blood and a profession he has always wanted to do since he was 7 years old.
His best friend’s mother, who is still teaching in the Centennial School District, is the person who started that dream.
“In the summers, my best friend and I would go to her school and help her set up in her classroom,” Dutkiewicz said. “That was the original spark that got me interested. I just liked that kind of work and preparing for the kids. Every year afterwards, even when I was in fifth grade, we would go in and help. It was just fun.”
The love of teaching continued throughout his younger years and into high school, where he was involved in the D.A.R.E. program and visited the elementary schools to discuss how they all avoided drugs and peer pressure. He also worked at a summer camp during that time. It all helped deepen his interest in elementary education.
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His journey since college has led him to a couple different schools with numerous positions along the way.
“Something West Chester did well was in the first semester, they put you in a practicum,” he said. “For some people , it showed them that this was not the profession for them, but for me, it strengthened my interest and my ambition to work in education.”
Dutkiewicz was able to secure a teaching position right after graduating, landing at the Renaissance Academy, a kindergarten through 12th grade charter school in Phoenxville. During that time, he taught third through fifth and served as the K-5 Science Curriculum Coordinator.
“I had to take a job at a charter school, and at the time, charter schools were newer and it wasn’t the preferred position,” he said. “It still was public and still came with all the benefits of working at a public system, but they could expect anything from you and I was ready to work really hard. They afforded me opportunities that no public school could.
“They offered leadership positions without the red tape of being young and not having seniority.”
The leadership for Dutkiewicz came in the form of Lead Teacher, Induction Supervisor and ELL Supervisor during his tenure at the Renaissance Academy.
He also took it upon himself to return to school and earn his Master’s in Educational Leadership from Immaculata University and later also earned the Pennsylvania K-6 Curriculum Supervisor and K-12 Principal certifications.
In 2006, Dutkiewicz took the next step in his career by leaving the Renaissance Academy to join the Penn-Delco School District, where he became the K-6 Math and Science Curriculum Coordinator.
“I was coordinator for two years and then the principal at Pennell Elementary left,” he said. “When he left, he encouraged me to apply. After two years of being the coordinator, I felt like I was not as connected to kids as I wanted to be. I didn’t have that relationship I used to have and I missed that.”
Dutkiewicz took the leap and applied for the open position and landed the job, even though he never originally envisioned himself getting into that role.
“I never thought I would want to be principal because, at the time, I thought, ‘Well, the principal has to deal with all the discipline, which is not fun, and dealing with parents who are not happy,’” he said. “The optimist in me just wanted to keep working with the curriculum and the kids, which is the best parts of the job.”
He soon learned at the Penn-Delco district that being a curriculum coordinator wasn’t giving him the connection with kids that he once had and maybe becoming principal was the change he needed.
“While being in the buildings, I realized being a principal isn’t actually all problems,” Dutkiewicz said. “There are a lot of great things about it and you still have all that curriculum part of it, too. You oversee all of that. You have the curriculum, you have the kids, sure you have a couple problems, but it’s all part of the gig.”
From the winter of 2008 until the end of this past school year, Dutkiewicz remained the principal at Pennell Elementary until his latest move brought him to the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District.
“After almost nine years at Penn-Delco … I wanted something new and to learn the system and when Unionville became open, I thought that would be a great opportunity,” he said.
A friend teaching at Charles F. Patton Middle School informed him of the opening at Chadds Ford Elementary and after sitting on the e-mail for a couple days, he decided to go for it.
“I wasn’t unhappy with where I was – I loved it, I loved my boss and the school was great,” Dutkiewicz said. “But that was in Delaware County and I really love Chester County. It has a richer history, it’s closer for me from home and it was just an opportunity for me to develop my experience better.”
Now, with the 2014-15 school year set to begin in less than a week, Dutkiewicz is excited to get things started at Chadds Ford Elementary.
“The excitement level is rising, no question,” he said. “We got to meet the kids a little bit at a meet-and-greet two weeks ago and that was great. The kids’ arrival is what I’m most looking forward to.”
Since he’s new to the school and the district, Dutkiewicz has no plans to alter anything at the moment.
He views himself more as a sponge for the year. He plans to absorb the culture of the school and listen to the teachers to see what things could be more efficient.
“My goal for the year is to join the herd,” Dutkiewicz said. “It involves becoming part of the community, really understanding where they come from and the history here if just unbelievable. During that time, I’ll see what I can bring to the school to improve or make things more efficient.”
Even though it’s a new school with new surroundings, Dutkiewicz is just happy to continue to have a role where he can interact with today’s youth.
“I just love working with kids,” he said. “Kids are so optimistic. I gravitate toward optimism and positive thinking and, by and large, kids are really positive thinkers. They have the greatest ideas, even though some are very far fetched. It’s just fun to work with that kind of population and to help them. It’s such a satisfying and gratifying profession.”