Back to school insights with Dr. Beth Teigen

Dr. Beth Teigen: Executive Director of School Administration for Chesterfield County Public Schools

EDUCATION
Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, minor in Mathematics, JMU 1984
Master of Education in Educational Leadership, UVA 2005
Doctorate in Educational Leadership, VCU 2009

Dr. Teigen, a resident of Chesterfield for almost 23 years, was named to her present position on May 25 last spring after being the head principal at L.C. Bird High School since 2007. A full-time educator for 13 years, Dr. Teigen has also spent time in the classroom: first substitute teaching in 1997 at Richard Milburn Academy in Northern Virginia, then as a full-time mathematics teacher at Bird from 1999-2004 before leading what is now called the Governor’s Academy for Engineering Studies in 2005 at Bird.  The very next year she took her first assistant principal position, also at Bird, in 2006 before leaving the next year to be an assistant principal at Cosby High School where she stayed only a year before returning to her beloved Bird High School.

VILLAGE NEWS: Had you always aspired to have a career in education?
BETH TEIGEN: Even though I tutored, and enjoyed it, when I was in high school and college, when I was encouraged to pursue a teaching certificate in college, I thought no way. I just knew that I wasn’t going to teach, but as I stayed home, raising my own children, I started to tutor. Eventually, I was tutoring many of the students I knew from the barn. (Yes, we have horses.) I tutored the high school students in math and science. Through word of mouth, I had more and more teens coming to my home in the evening – for my husband was away from home, always traveling due to his work. I knew that when my children started school that it was what I wanted to do – to teach. It took me a while to realize that was what I was called to do. 

VN: What are you some of the duties, responsibilities of your new position?
BT: My role is to provide direct support and leadership to a strong group of approximately 150 school-based administrators – which this year includes more than a dozen first-time principals and another 20-plus first-time assistant principals, deans and administrative assistants. This supporting leadership role complements the Chief Academic Officer’s responsibilities for providing instructional support and allows her to focus on enhancing existing curriculum and academic support structures needed to meet a changing school division enrollment, the federal requirements of No Child Left Behind, and business world expectations in a constantly evolving 21st Century society.

VN: What’s your favorite aspect of your new position?
BT: My favorite aspect is getting to work with all schools and being able to work with the K-12 continuum.  I have always been more of a systems thinker. While at L. C. Bird I was always seeking ways to collaborate on academic programs. While the schools in Chesterfield County are diverse, we all face similar challenges with engaging today’s student and helping those students who have been slower to engage in school catch-up. 

VN:
Do you ever take days off or go on vacation?
BT: Not as often as I’d like. I do enjoy the three-day weekends in the summer. And I have found time to travel. In the last three years I’ve visited Germany and Norway; so I’ve had some week-long, out-of-the-country vacations.  Other than that it’s been difficult, but it’s not just my schedule: my husband’s a small-business owner, and with the economy, it hasn’t been conducive for him to take time off.

VN: Do you have a hero or someone you adore, that you’ve always looked up to?
BT: My parents; they’ve molded me into who I am. My mother gave up her career as a nurse to stay home and raise me and my sister. I’ve always admired her for that. I’ve been lucky, though, that I’ve had both worlds – being a stay-at-home mom and having a career I love. And my work ethic, I can definitely attribute that to my father.  Of course I adore my husband and my daughters. 

VN: Why do you believe education is so crucial?
BT:  Education has such a significant impact on society. Parents trust us with their children, and we, as educators, have an obligation to work to help their children become who they want to be. Every child that comes to us has gifts and talents and it’s: how do we help them develop those gifts and talents so that they can be not only productive citizens but happy, productive citizens; that they find something that they love, that they find joy in doing and in doing it well? If we are successful at that, society benefits. 

VN: You’re obviously an advocate of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), but do you still see a place for the arts in the world or in the classroom, or both?
BT: Absolutely. Especially within STEM education, we must teach creativity, and this is best accomplished through the arts, be it drawing or 3-D design or photography or music – all of these help develop problem-solving and help students alter their perspective – how they look at the world. 

VN:
What would you tell the teens unsure about picking a course of study in college?

BT: That’s perfectly fine. I actually tell teens to use their junior and senior year in high school to start exploring possible careers. They have space in their schedule for elective courses, they should try different ones to find out what it is they truly enjoy and what they have a passion for. And if they start college undecided about a major, their general education classes should help them figure out what they enjoy learning about. How many adults are out there who aren’t doing what they went to college to do? I’m one and so is my husband. Life’s journey is not a straight line; it’s the forks in the road that may lead to your true destination. 

VN: What you do love most about Chesterfield County?
BT: I love that diversity, and I love the fact that we are a student- and family-centered community. I take great pride in that as a Chesterfield citizen.

VN: Do you have any advice for the parents worried about letting go of their kids for the first time for school?
BT: I know that the first day of school is both exciting and scary for parents. The best advice I can give parents is to make sure your child is ready with all the supplies they need to succeed, make sure that you keep a positive attitude about school so your child doesn’t pick up on your feelings of apprehension, as you face letting go, and feel like school is a scary place. Try to be enthusiastic for them because the children are excited. And let them ride the bus. If that’s the way they will travel to school every day, start that the first day. Dropping Kindergartners at the schoolhouse door can often be more difficult for the child than waving goodbye at the neighborhood bus stop. That would be my advice as a mom. 

Schools with a new head principal in VN circulation

ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS
Bellwood – Jennifer Rudd*
Curtis – Dr. Cyndee Blount
Ecoff – Dr. Joshua Cole*
Ettrick – Teressa Clary
Harrowgate – Fred Scott*
Hening – Deia Champ*
Hopkins – Dr. Lisa Hill*
Matoaca – Debbie Wessel*

MIDDLE SCHOOLS
Elizabeth Davis – Dr. Tameshia Grimes
Falling Creek – Melanie Knowles*

HIGH SCHOOLS
Lloyd C. Bird – Dr. Laura Hebert*
Thomas Dale – Pam Lumsden*
Chesterfield Technical Center – Dr. Mike Gill

* First-time head principals

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