We’re pleased to announce that Hillside Elementary has a new principal, Rachel Kuhtz. She spoke with us about what parents can expect when they enroll their children at Hillside.
Tell us a little about your background.
This is my 18th year in education. I began teaching at Buchanan High School straight out of college and have taught at different local schools and grade levels over the years. For the last two years, I’ve been the principal and dean of academics at the TK-8th Kepler Neighborhood School in Fresno. I’m very excited to be the new principal of Hillside Elementary.
What is your vision for the school?
My focus is academics. I believe in building strong foundational skills for our early grades. Many students have fallen behind due to COVID and need intervention to support learning they have missed. We want to make sure to fill in any gaps they may have. I also want to support our teachers who have been doing a fantastic job amidst the chaos of the past couple of years and make sure they learn and grow as a profession.
What will a child’s experience be at Hillside School?
What I love about the culture here is that all of our kids are all of our kids. Whether a student is in Kindergarten or 8th Grade, a teacher from any grade level will know who they are and something about them. We really want to be a champion for their academic and personal progress over the school year and are invested in creating a community of caring, responsible citizens. My job is to make sure we’re growing great citizens, great neighbors, and great people.
What programs are important to you?
STEAM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math, is always going to be a priority, and we want to make sure we give students all kinds of hands-on opportunities to apply what they’re learning in these areas. Book learning isn’t for all kids, so for example, if students are studying about erosion, let’s look at how they can build something to prevent erosion. We have some fantastic resources at our school, and students will be able to do everything from graphic design to 3D printing. Our focus is project-based learning, which I believe is an incredible way to engage students in learning in different ways.
What is project-based learning?
Project-based learning is a teaching method where students learn through real-world and meaningful projects. For example, if students are studying the environment and trying to solve a problem about lack of water, they might read about water conservation and alternative ways to use water and then look at a specific region like Madera County. They could collect and measure water, and study where water flows in Madera County, what water source is being used, and how other counties utilize alternative ways to collect water. They might also look at where the money comes to pay for this. It’s really interdisciplinary learning because they’re using different strategies across the curriculum including science, reading, geography, social studies, math, and financial literacy.
What kind of extracurricular programs are offered?
Every year, there will be four quarters of sports that any student can participate in regardless of athletic ability. Our athletics include everything from girls football to boys volleyball. We offer instrumental music, and there is a parent-run Empowered Kids Program and a church-run Good News Club. We’re also open to expanding programs that the community wants.
What’s the future for Hillside?
The future is bright for Hillside. I want to make sure students are attracted and engaged in what they’re learning and am looking forward to a full school year with less COVID restrictions, and leadership that is present and ready to support families.