Joanna Strawser

Joanna Strawser

CIRCLEVILLE — Pickaway Elementary has a new leader this year, one who has always wanted to be an educator.

Joanna Strawser took over the reins of Pickaway Elementary before the start of this school year. She previously was a teacher at Amanda-Clearcreek as a second-grade teacher before becoming the principal of the third through fifth grade building. She then went on and became principal at Allen Elementary for Chillicothe City School District.

Strawser said she wanted to be closer to home and then made the change to come and work in Pickaway County.

“This just feels like family,” she said.

Strawser said ever since she was a child, she’s wanted to be a teacher and now that she’s principal, she’s able to help and work with even more kids than those in one classroom.

“Since I was in kindergarten, I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “It’s never changed and I never thought about another career. My grandmother was a teacher, my great-grandmother was a teacher, my dad taught classes at Columbus State and my mom has taught. It’s in the family, but I was so little with my grandma, I wasn’t in the school, but it was something that I just knew I wanted to do.

When I was in the classroom, I knew that I was able to touch those 25 lives, but I wanted more and to leave an impression on more than those 25,” she said.

“That’s when I started looking at becoming an administrator. I thought I could help teachers improve their skills so that they will touch more lives. I also feel like I’m a role model for all the students; that’s something parents in the past have complimented me on. I say that I now have 220 some kids of my own.”

These days, Strawser said she hopes that the students get the basic skills they need, such as in reading and math, and that they also develop other skills as well.

“We want them to also develop coping skills for when things don’t go their way and how they handle a tragic situation or a disagreement with a friend or something else you might not know,” she said. “We want to teach them those skills as well because it’s so beneficial to them.”

Strawser said education has changed and no longer is it all about sitting and drilling like it used to be.

“We’ve made that switch to where you’re including more hands-on teaching and having them find ways to solve problems and talk about solving the problem,” she said. “That’s something that’s beneficial to the students, not only through grade school, but for college or trade school.”

Strawser said sometimes, people forget that kids are resilient, especially given the last two years, and they take care of each other.

“They, especially the younger kids, don’t see each other as being different,” she said.

“We’ve had kids in wheelchairs, to having prostatic limbs, or whatever their needs might be, and the other kids think they’re part of ‘us.’ I have one boy here who is afraid of heights and another boy was saying to him, ‘I saw you go up three steps today, good job. I know you can go up the next step.’ That speaks volumes for how much they care about each other.”

Strawser said Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is something the school district has implemented.

“We teach the kids to act responsibly, think of others and encourage others,” she said.

“We want them to make others feel like they’re part of what they’re doing. The students and staff are doing an exceptional job of it. The kids are responding well and we write out these ‘Be a Brave’ tickets, when they get caught doing something good, and we’re at 1,000 of them already for the school year.”

Strawser, a woman of her word, has already kissed a pig, twice, as part of a change war that was started earlier this year. She told students if they could raise $1,000, she’d kiss a pig. After her announcement, they raised an additional $1,400 on top of the already-raised $800 to that point.

“They asked if I’d be willing to do it because we were raising money to make upgrades to the playground,” she said. “Monday morning, I came in made the announcement to the kids — from Tuesday to Thursday they brought in the $1,400. Not only did I kiss it once, I kissed it twice.”

Strawser said when it comes to the future of the school, she wants to make sure the students and atmosphere are better than when she started.

“Coming into Pickaway, I know that we’ve talked a lot about coming together as a district and we’re working on that,” she said.

“We’ve done things like get togethers and we started birthday celebrations again. Last month, we held a painting event after school and we invited anyone from any of the elementary schools because in two years, we’re all going to be together. We’re starting to think about how we can come together. These people will be teaching right next door to one another and it’s about getting to know one another better.”

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