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New principal makes her move back to Middleton

Sara Palodichuk began July 1 as the new principal at Middleton Elementary. Palodichuk is returning to District 833 having worked in the district from 1993-2006. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)

District 833 has always been home for Cottage Grove resident Sara Palodichuk, which is why she is so excited to take the reins at Middleton Elementary.

Palodichuk started as Middleton’s new principal on July 1.

“To come back to a community where you live and then be able to give back and serve is important,” she said. “It’s wonderful just to be in your home community and serving your home community.”

Palodichuk is succeeding Julie Nielsen who took a job as District 833’s Assistant Superintendent for Academic Excellence and Accountability.

“It’s nice to know that (Nielsen’s) just a phone call away,” Palodichuk said, “and to know that she has my back.”

Not only is Palodichuk no stranger to the District 833 community, she is also no stranger to Middleton. Palodichuk’s first job in education was in 1993 as a kindergarten teacher there.

Palodichuk said she was inspired to go into education after having quality teachers when she was in school.

“As a young student, I struggled a little bit in school with reading,” she said. “Through the connection of powerful, wonderful teachers it really pursued me to go into education.

“Also, just a love for kids.”

Palodichuk said she always had a soft spot for young children having spent a lot of time babysitting and teaching gymnastics.

“I just have a connection with kids,” she said.

Palodichuk holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Winona State University and a master’s degree in education from St. Mary’s University.

Palodichuk has spent her entire career in elementary education. She worked within District 833 from 1993-2006, District 622 from 2006-2013 and District 197 from 2013-2014.

“Elementary has always been the soft spot in my heart,” she said. “At a young age, you can influence a lot more and inspire.

“You can really get kids hooked in to the things that they are interested in and just show them how important education really is.”

Palodichuk said she decided to make the switch from classroom teacher to administrator because of the amount of impact she could have.

“I just had that feeling that that is the direction I wanted to go because as an administrator you’re impacting the whole school,” she said. “You’re working with teachers and you’re helping them grow and develop.

“Also, you get that next level of being involved with what’s going on out in the community.”

As an educator, Palodichuk said some of the most rewarding parts of the job are the connections she makes with students and seeing the growth in students.

“When you see the light bulb go off,” she said, “it just touches your heart.”

When it comes to a philosophy on education, Palodichuk said she lives by the mantra “every child is everyone’s responsibility.”

“In a school community it takes a village, it takes all of us,” she said. “It’s our responsibility to educate all of our kids.”

Palodichuk said she is excited to be back at Middleton and the opportunity to help move the school forward.

“There are a lot of wonderful traditions that are here,” she said. “I want to keep that positive culture moving forward.”

As principal, Palodichuk said she wants to focus on closing the school’s achievement gap and increasing students’ literacy scores.

Additionally, Palodichuk said she would like to look at more progress monitoring within the classroom.

“I want to track progress through every week so we know how our kids are doing and it’s not a big surprise with the test results,” she said.

Palodichuk said she is eager for the first day of school and for the students to come back.

“I’ve gained some really great experience and knowledge that I’m excited to share here,” she said, “and I want to keep the positive momentum going here.”

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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