Tiffany Foster, the new principal of Meade Heights Elementary School, wants parents to know that she considers the school to be a “home away from home” for its students.
“The teachers and staff members are here because they are passionate about encouraging the young lives that are here,” said Foster, who began her tenure in late June.
Foster replaces Susan Gallagher, who served as principal for nine years. Gallagher is now principal of Eastport Elementary School in Annapolis.
Before arriving at Fort Meade, Foster was the assistant principal at Tyler Heights Elementary School in Annapolis for three years.
“Everyone here is so nice, kind and friendly,” she said. “… I’m really fortunate to be in an environment where everyone is connected in a genuine way.”
Meade Heights is hosting a “Meet and Greet” today from 3 to 4 p.m. to allow students to meet their teachers and find their new classrooms and lockers. Parents are also invited.
Back-to-School Night is Sept. 7 at 6:30 p.m. Teachers will focus on the highlights of the curriculum for the new school year, and will introduce their homework and instruction policies. The PTA will recruit new members and volunteers.
“I want my children to leave the doors and go home to tell their parents how amazing their school day was,” she said. “I want them to feel loved and supported and to feel that it’s OK to take risks.”
Foster said she wants students to learn that the struggle in pursuit of an education is the reward.
Her goal for the school year, she said, is to ensure the implementation of the Anne Arundel County Public Schools’ curriculum. The curriculum focuses both on guided reading instruction to ensure that all students are reading on their grade level by second grade, as well as math instruction, which is geared to helping students use higher-level applications to solve real-world problems.
The science curriculum has been updated to include more hands-on and interactive learning activities for students.
A native of Kent Island on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Foster knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was a child.
“I used the chalkboard my grandmother gave me and taught lessons to my baby dolls,” she said.
Foster said her third-grade teacher, Mrs. Zajak, inspired her to become an educator.
“She was amazing, funny, loving and self-confident,” Foster recalled. “I saw her and said ‘I want to be like her, I want to teach third grade.’ I wanted to make children feel the way she made me feel.’”
Foster attended Anne Arundel Community College for a year before transferring to University of Maryland Baltimore County, where she earned a degree in sociology and social work.
She later earned a master’s degree in education from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland and certification in education administration and supervision from McDaniel College.
In 2004, Foster was a third-grade teacher at Oakcrest Elementary School in Landover. Four years later, she worked at Cora L. Rice Elementary School in Landover.
Foster later worked at Germantown Elementary School in Annapolis, where she taught second and third grade and was the Title 1 resource teacher for six years.
From there, she became the assistant principal at Tyler Heights Elementary School.
Foster said her education philosophy is based on the belief that all children are capable of learning.
“You really have to ask yourself as a teacher, ‘Am I making a connection with my students and am I providing differentiated instruction on their level?’ ” Foster said.
“I treat my students the way I want teachers to treat my children. I don’t want parents to worry about whether their child is receiving a quality education while they are working. I want to provide students with the right supports.”
Foster and her husband, John, a software developer, are the parents of Aaron, 7, and daughter Avery, 3. the family lives in Arnold. They also care for Foster’s niece Kendall, 19, who is studying nursing at UMBC.
Foster said when she is not a work, she is spending time with her family taking them to their dance and taekwondo classes, and attending sporting events.
“School is more than just learning to read and write,” she said. “It’s about learning social skills that make you a better person.”