Heather Conn sits on a bench in front of the Rae C. Stedman Elementary School in Petersburg where she teaches special education. She will start the 2019-2020 year as the school’s new principal. (Photo by Angela Denning/KFSK)

Petersburg School District has hired local teacher, Heather Conn, as the new principal of the Rae C. Stedman Elementary School. Conn will be replacing retiring principal, Teri Toland, next school year. KFSK’s Angela Denning reports:

Heather Conn is homegrown. She was born and raised in Petersburg, graduating from the local high school in 1996. She’s raised three children here, one has already graduated and two are still in school.

Superintendent Erica Kludt-Painter says Conn was the clear choice among many applicants from around the country.

“She was an excellent candidate,” Kludt-Painter said. “She has been an amazing teacher in our district and actually in other places around the state and even in other states so she certainly has a good educational background.”

Kludt-Painter has known Conn for over a decade. Conn completed her principal internship for her Master’s Degree in Education Administration at Stedman Elementary. In that role, she was mentored by both Kludt-Painter and Teri Toland.

“She’s a tenacious worker, she will tackle anything,” Kludt-Painter said. “She will jump in, she’s not afraid to try things, she will put in the work to see things through, she’ll follow through with them, she’s very organized about that, very efficient.”

On the surface, though, Kludt-Painter says Conn often has a calm demeanor.

“She puts people at ease and she makes people feel comfortable,” she said, “but then she’s not afraid to just dive in and get the work done and bring everybody along with her to get the work done. She’s a leader.”

Conn has a long teaching career in Petersburg, Juneau, and Colorado. It all started 18 years ago at Headstart in Petersburg. Conn was the lead teacher there for eight years. She moved to Colorado and taught special education for four years. Then in Juneau, she taught preschool special education for a year. Back in Petersburg in 2014, she finished her master’s degree and completed her principal internship.

“She’s very conscientious; she’s approachable,” Kludt-Painter said. “Kids really like her, she’s able to communicate well with parents and families, she works well with other colleagues and other staff members.”

In recent years, Conn has worked in Rae C. Stedman Elementary School. She was hired to teach fourth grade from 2015-2017. Then she moved into a special education position where she works today.

Kludt-Painter says because Conn is local she will have a chance to work with administrators on her new role this spring.

“It’s advantageous I think for us to have that opportunity to work with somebody closely and really help them transition into the job,” Kludt-Painter said.

Kludt-Painter says it’s also an advantage to have Conn in the district already because she has an awareness of the budget cuts being proposed on the state level.