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Dwyer Middle School Principal Christa Glembocki snaps a photo with the Dwyer Chorale, the school’s nationally recognized choir, before flying to a performance at the Aloha State Festival in Honolulu. The school has been recognized as a California Exemplary Arts School.
Glembocki engages students with GRIT
June 26, 2023
ACSA Administrators of the Year graphic.
Name: Christa Glembocki Award: Middle Grades Principal of the Year Title: Principal, Dwyer Middle School, Huntington Beach City SD ACSA highlights: Member since 2008; ACSA Huntington Beach City School District Charter President, Region 17 (2019-present).
Christa Glembocki places a high value on grit. As principal of Dwyer Middle School since 2017, she has instituted a schoolwide effort to emphasize the core values of Gratitude, Responsibility, Integrity and Tenacity, or GRIT. It’s a program she’s extremely proud of, and for good reason.
A shared vision around these central values has had a measurable impact on the school’s Positive Behavior Intervention System, creating new opportunities for student and staff success. Glembocki’s leadership has created a culture of team-building, trust, accountability and school pride, and has inspired similar models throughout the district.
In addition to GRIT, Glembocki’s initiatives include the implementation of Thinking Maps in writing instruction; the establishment of an advisory period, part of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports to address student behavior and social-emotional and academic needs; technological advancements including a modernized campus, STEM classrooms and comprehensive technology training programs for staff; ongoing academic interventions based on student data and led by teachers; a school-wide book study on social-emotional learning; and the development of an arts program that resulted in Dwyer being recognized as a California Exemplary Arts School.
“[Glembocki] is a dynamic, dedicated leader who leads her team with a common vision and focuses on success for all students,” wrote Leisa Winston, superintendent of Huntington Beach City USD. “She has led one of the most successful positive behavior initiatives in the district by engaging students, staff, parents and local businesses in efforts to improve school culture and student behavior across the community.”
What is your favorite quote about leadership? One of my favorite quotes about leadership is, “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them” by Brené Brown. At Dwyer Middle School, we have a program called GRIT which teaches students about our core values of Gratitude, Responsibility, Integrity and Tenacity. I always tell students that integrity is super important to me because it is your heart, your character, your “you.”
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? The best advice was given to me by a mentor of mine and she told me not to take things personally (easier said than done). I try not to let things eat at me for more than 24 hours. After about a day, you have to let it go or it will start to affect your work with students and staff, as well as your personal life. You have got to be your best self so it reflects positively in your words and actions — and that is very difficult if you are carrying around something heavy.
What’s your best strategy for work/life balance? One strategy that I use for a good work/life balance is to make sure not to miss the small things for my own children. Even if I need to step off campus for an hour here and there to see a performance at my girls’ school, I prioritize that. I have learned that you can never get those moments back and someone at work can almost always cover for you! My family also tries to get out into nature and take short weekend trips in our trailer. Those little jaunts rejuvenate me!
What are some life hacks that you would recommend for a new administrator? One thing that has really helped me in the busyness of life and work is to put everything in my calendar. There are times when I can’t sleep because I am thinking about work. I have found that if I immediately put the information in my calendar or send myself an email, I can rest and go back to sleep. Another hack that has taken me six years as a principal to finally do is to take email notifications off my phone. I still have my work account on my phone so I can check it if I choose, but it does not stare me in the face and tempt me to look at it. Don’t check work email right before bed, trust me!
What would people be surprised to learn about you? Those who don’t know me might be surprised that I love to bake and decorate cakes and cupcakes. It is my outlet when I get stressed, but I don’t want to eat all the goodies, so my staff becomes the lucky recipients of all my recipes. My most popular flavors are red velvet, fresh lemon with homemade fruit drizzles and chocolate peanut butter. The entire district knows about my cupcakes and no one complains when I bring a batch for sampling!
What made you want to become an administrator? I have taken on leadership roles since I was in high school, however, I never really thought about becoming an administrator when I became a teacher. My first principal and superintendent saw in me what I didn’t yet recognize in myself and encouraged me to take on leadership roles at my school site. I then started my Master’s in Educational Leadership to determine if it was something I wanted to pursue. In my final year at Cal State Fullerton, they encouraged us to schedule a few practice interviews. I applied for elementary assistant principal and the panel thought I fit best at middle school … and the rest is history! I have been in middle school now for about 16 years and I love working with this age group.
What are you most proud of accomplishing? As principal of Dwyer Middle School, I am proud of quite a few things. One that comes to mind is our successful implementation of a Positive Behavior and Intervention Support program called GRIT. Our GRIT Program has made an impact on our school and the surrounding community, so much so that we have a handful of local business partners that accept our digital currency, GRITcoin, in their stores. Jr. Oilers Living and Learning with GRIT has become a way of life at Dwyer. Another major accomplishment that I am proud of is the work our team has done to improve equity and inclusion on our campus and in our district. Our art programs celebrate and showcase heritage and inclusion months, all while incorporating history and students’ experiences. Our English Learners, students who qualify as Title I and our students with special needs have been given more opportunities to take elective classes in addition to their needed intervention courses. We had to think outside the box to make it happen within scheduling parameters, but it was so important for the well-being and equity of our students. Our team works so hard toward an environment where all students feel included and part of the Jr. Oiler family.
How are you prioritizing mental health? Mental health is so important to pay attention to. We are seeing that need for students and staff more than we ever have before. We created an advisory period in our bell schedule that occurs once a week and is solely focused on mental health and social emotional well-being. Staff is teaching “40 Developmental Assets” and we have weekly themes that reinforce the concepts. To support our staff, we try to incorporate positive recognition in each staff meeting where the administrative team awards GRIT wristbands each month, and peers are also able to recognize each other through a trophy we pass around and some fun raffles. To take care of my own mental health, I use humor, try not to take things personally, and I enjoy live music with friends whenever I can. Time at the beach or paddleboarding with my family always brings me peace as well.
2023 Middle Grades Principal of the Year Christa Glembocki.
2023 Middle Grades Principal of the Year Christa Glembocki.
2023 Middle Grades Principal of the Year Christa Glembocki.
2023 Middle Grades Principal of the Year Christa Glembocki.