James B. Eads Elementary School’s mission is “to help students demonstrate academic growth and social responsibility in a supportive and intellectually challenging learning environment.” By all accounts, Principal Linda Bevil embodies that mission, both in the school and in the community.
Principal Bevil describes education as her calling – not just her career. She took on the leadership at Eads Elementary thirteen years ago, after she had already served as a teacher, school counselor, and school administrator. When she arrived at Eads, the Title 1 school was performing adequately, but Principal Bevil believed that students and teachers were ready to transform into a high-performing, achievement gap-closing school.
Principal Bevil’s approach to school improvement was informed by her commitments to educational excellence, as well as shared leadership and decision-making. Her early work at Eads included convening a school leadership team, a data team, and intervention team. Schoolwide, educators were invited to review instructional strategies, research the best reading programs to meet student needs, and use data from program reviews to identify the best interventions and tools. Principal Bevil also thoughtfully recruited new staff, including teachers, an assistant principal, and an instructional coach who supported the work of meeting all students’ needs, including English learners, students with disabilities, and students from low-income backgrounds.
Over time, Principal Bevil has sustained many of the new strategies that helped the school improve, and continues to support teams as they take shared responsibility for effective collaboration. Teachers appreciate that Principal Bevil ensures they have access to high-quality professional development, and dedicated time to hone their skills. Recently, Eads has adopted the PLC model (Professional Learning Community), providing grade level teams with weekly common planning times; members of the current school leadership team credit Eads’ continuing high performance with Principal Bevil providing ongoing support for collaboration and effective team structures.
Stakeholders across the Eads’ community also applaud Principal Bevil for creating and sustaining a positive school culture characterized by kindness and social responsibility. She assisted teachers in establishing ‘Eads Leads’, a student leadership team, which trains students to serve as peer mentors to their classmates, helping them find positive ways to address frustration and disappointment. She installed and trained students on how to use a ‘Buddy Bench’ – a dedicated space in the playground for students to sit and signal that they wanted a playmate. Educators have been supported to lead social and emotional learning lessons, including ‘Community Circle’ time, which provides students with space to address life experiences they are having in and out of school.
Families and community members receive a warm welcome at Eads Elementary. Principal Bevil encourages parents to spend time as classroom volunteers, and organizes events including school cookouts, movie nights, and family math and science nights. She cultivates community partnerships that not only help Eads Elementary School, but which give students and families the opportunity to serve and show kindness to others. She has arranged school participation in walk-a-thons to support worthy causes including juvenile diabetes, the American Heart Association, and the Munster Police Department Canine Program. During the annual week of Eads Kindness Activities, Principal Bevil, the Parent Teacher Organization, and teachers help students draw pictures and write hundreds of kind notes expressing their appreciation for school and community staff, including custodians, bus drivers, the police department, and firefighters. As one parent expresses, “it’s exciting when your children attend a school that not only supports academic and social development, but also helps your children to develop an interest in community service and become good citizens.”
Amongst all her responsibilities as a school leader, Principal Bevil also makes time to share her wisdom with future educators. District administrators note that she has mentored numerous teachers, who have in turn been recognized for excellence in education. Teachers from Eads who pursue new opportunities as leaders in other schools are characterized by emulating many of the same attributes that Principal Bevil brings to the Eads Elementary School community.