• Doug Waclawski steps into principal’s shoes, looks to have a “fantastic year”
By Christina Whiting
With a passion for helping kids, former Homer High School assistant principal Doug Waclawski didn’t hesitate to apply for and accept the job of principal when it came available.
Born and raised in Michigan, Waclawski said he hadn’t intended to get into education.
“While working toward a biology degree at Northern Michigan University, I signed up for an Elementary of Education Class because it sounded interesting,” Waclawski said. “I enjoyed it and decided to transition to an education degree.”
He also met and married Michelle, a communications major, there.
After graduating with an elementary education degree in 1993, Waclawski took his first teaching job in Winslow, Ariz.
“I taught second grade and was the technology coordinator for the district,” he said. “I wrote grants and was in charge of the network, emails and the maintenance of the server. I also filled in as principal.”
Waclawski continued teaching in Winslow for three years, before returning to Michigan. There, he received his degree in education leadership from Grande Valley Michigan University in 2002.
Waclawski then went on to teach in Vanderbilt, Mich. until 2006, when he and Michelle decided to work and travel overseas. While looking for work abroad, Waclawski accepted a job in Alaska.
“I was offered a position in Seoul, Korea and in Palestine, but we were already on our way to Alaska,” he said. “The school that I would have been working at in Palestine has since been bombed, so coming to Alaska may have actually saved our lives.”
Moving to Homer, Waclawski was first a principal and teacher at Razdolna, one of the Russian communities in the area.
Waclawski said he appreciates strong family upbringing and dedicated parents who care about their children’s education.
“Working at this school was a great introduction to Alaska,” said Waclawski. “The kids were so good. This was the first place I taught where I could just teach. I didn’t have to police the students as well.”
In 2010, Waclawski accepted the position of assistant principal at Homer High. While he was eager to take on this role, he said he felt some trepidation.
“I was worried that I’d lose the close relationship that teachers can develop with kids,” he explained. “I didn’t want to be just some guy in the office.”
He was grateful to find this wasn’t the case.
“This position actually allowed me to have a deeper relationship with the kids,” he said.
Waclawski recognizes the successes and challenges that exist for staff and students.
“Kids are always laughing and joking. Homer High has a great, positive culture, but kids can still make poor decisions,” he said. “Last fall, a couple of students got in trouble at an off-campus party. This caused negative press about the school.”
Rather than let this incident define them, the students themselves took action.
“The students created an organization called Colors of Homer,” Waclawski said. “This provides an outlet for students to express their creativity. Born out of the idea to ‘create, don’t hate’, CoH invites students and community members to gather to support one another in diverse and creative ways of being. Students may exhibit visual art, recite poetry, perform music, tell jokes, sell home-made culinary arts and more.”
The first event was held at the Homer Council on the Arts with about 100 people in attendance. The second took place at K-bay Cafe with some 60 people in attendance.
“The student coordinators decided to donate half of the funds raised to the high school visual arts department and the other half to the REC Room,” said Waclawski. “CoH is student-driven, flexible and dynamic. Any student is welcome and encouraged to participate at any capacity.”
Homer High School currently has a staff of 35 certified positions and 20 support staff. Some 400 students are registered, along with 50 to 60 homeschool Connections kids.
While it’s often said that it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a team to raise a student.
“A good teacher is a person with a strong desire to help kids and who wants to have a positive effect on their lives,” he said. “Between good teachers and supportive parents, we can provide these kids with an outstanding education.”
Doug and Michelle just celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary and are raising two teenagers. Aurora is 15 and attends Homer High and Denver is 13 and attends Homer Middle School. The Waclawski family loves Homer and are very active in outdoor activities like hiking, camping and four-wheeling.
“This is a great community and a wonderful place to raise kids,” said Waclawski.
While already active in his duties as principal for the coming school year, Waclawski said he and the staff are excited to see the students come through the door.
“It’s going to be a fantastic year for everyone,” said Waclawski.
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