Recently retired Novi principal reflects on her tenure and future

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Jenifer Michos (right) and her mother (left) on a bench at the front of Parkview Elementary School. Photo provided by Jenifer Michos.

NOVI, Mich.-Growing up as the daughter of two educators, teaching was something Jenifer Michos became familiar with very quickly in her life, and the challenges that came with it proved to be too hard to resist.

“I loved the challenge of a student that might have been struggling,” said Michos. “When I went to Hope College, I had exceptional teachers and I ate up all of their strategies, and it helped me become empowered to work with kids that had special needs, which is what I did first.”

Full view of Parkview Elementary School in Novi, Michigan. Photo by Darin Baydoun.

Now after having been principal of Parkview Elementary in Novi for 16 years before her retirement at the end of this past school year, Michos has meet those challenges and many changes along the way, whether it’d be with students, staff or even the education system itself.

“I would say there was a looseness to the system,” said Michos. “Over the years we have become more structured with the laws that have been put in place like No Child Left Behind, and they’ve helped us align with what the current needs are for our students.”

“I think we’ve also made huge improvements in regards to how we look at mental health. That was maybe the most challenging part of being a principle was understanding those complicated issues, but now I think we’re more in tuned with them than ever before.”

No matter what, though, one thing that hadn’t ever changed, according to those who worked with her, was the way the trust and empowerment that she instilled in everyone at Parkview.

“When she came to Parkview she was pretty young, and she brought a very positive energy that never left,” said Bridget Zahradink, a teacher who has been at Parkview for 18 years. “She created a culture of teacher leadership, and we became a building of risk takers because of the trust she fostered with everyone.”

“She has great belief in a growth mindset,” said Carolyn Chaney, a teacher at Parkview for the last 29 years. “She’s very supportive of everyone in her learning community growing, and she supports everyone in their passions and helps plant those seeds of encouragement.”

“I’ve done things I never guessed I would have done in teaching and leadership because of her,” said Chaney. “Her legacy is always going to be at Parkview because she’s been successful in bringing out leadership in staff, kids and parents alike.”

It’s through this building of trust and empowerment that so many great relationships have been fostered by Michos over the years, an aspect of the job she says is so rewarding.

“That’s been the best part of being a principle, the relationships,” she said. “You find that there are so many people rich with knowledge and gifts, and having relationships with them are what I think keep you going and are what inspire you.”

It’s those same relationships that she says she is going to miss most now that she is no longer going to be the principle at Parkview.

“One thing I feel I’m going to miss out on is that half the staff is brand new,” Michos said. “My only wish is that I would have been able to grow them. It’s special when you can hire someone and see them grow and develop with you, and to say goodbye was hard for me.”

As for what’s next for her after retirement? Michos is going to continue to focus on cultivating teacher leadership as the executive director of the Galileo Teacher Leadership Consortium, a new challenge that she is already excited about and what members of her former staff think is a perfect fit.

“I’m excited to show others what’s possible,” said Michos. “I want to help others feel the power of teacher leadership and collaboration and the impact it could have.”

“I feel like that job is meant for her,” said Chaney. “She’s a believer in what she does and she puts her full passion into everything, and I think it’s the most natural thing for her to move forward with.”

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