There’s a little known fact that Ladue’s new middle school Principal Dr. Vicki VanLaere is making her second stop locally.
As a youngster, her father was a teacher, and she attended grade school at Community School in Ladue where he was on the faculty.
But for the better part of her career, she’s taught and administrated in the Mehlville, Meramec Valley (Pacific) and Union, Missouri School districts.
A yearning to get out from behind the desk and the walls of an administrative center (in Mehlville) made the move possible.
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At age 53, and nearing retirement age, not everyone wants such a big career move. Last spring, However VanLaere took the leap of faith and was named as the new principal of the middle school, replacing the retiring Cathy Richter.
“At first, when I heard about the job I was thinking, ‘not me.’” “I called people in the district and asked: who am I up against?”
After spending three years as principal of Oakville Middle School, she transferred over to the administrative center as an assistant superintendent. She was immersed in human resources, discipline, assignments and professional development “but I was never in the classroom anymore.”
For a lifetime teacher, that was too much to bear.
So does she plan wholesale changes at the school on Conway Road? “Those would be rookie mistakes and I’m not a rookie. I live by the motto ‘in the classroom, every day.’”
At least for this year, there will be no changes in curriculum or programming at Ladue’s middle school.
The teachers might be a little nervous about me being in their room all the time, but they get very used to it right away,” she said. “That way, I can learn the strengths and weaknesses of teachers right away.”
She has been in email and phone contact with her staff already, and will be holding more formal face to face meetings after July 1.
Both her parents were career teachers, mostly in the Union, Missouri school district.
“I’ve got big shoes to fill. Cathy obviously did a great job of running this school,” she said.
VanLaere is also a visiting professor at Lindenwood University. She teachers administrative courses to graduate students in St. Charles. She plans to offer the same type of opportunity in Ladue. Details stlll need to be worked out.
Getting her office made up is next on the agenda. Otherwise, things will look pretty much the same with a new chief administrator in the corner office.