Interview with the Principal of the Year


Principal Gary Steiger

Michael Smith, News Editor

Palatine High School’s very own Principal Gary Steiger was named llinois Principals Association 2015-2016 High School Principal of the Year this month. To celebrate, I sat down with Principal Steiger and asked about his time at PHS.

Michael Smith: When did you know that you were principal of the year?

Principal Gary Steiger: Last Wednesday, the director from the Illinois Principals Association called and told me.

MS: What was your reaction when you first heard the news?

GS: Shocked. Stunned. Excited. Floored, because it’s cool. But it’s really about the people here at Palatine. It is everything our teachers do and our students do. I just get to brag about cool things that we do here.

MS: Now, you have been principal here for 13 years. What were the challenges of being a new principal back then?

GS: Well, I was here for five years before that as Assistant Principal. My sister-in-law actually graduated from Palatine High School. So, I knew a lot about Palatine. I think the biggest challenge was coming back and seeing how things were changing. I was here for five years, then I went to Conant for two years, and then came back here. In that time, there was a lot of new staff and a lot of this had changed. But I had a great experience with Dr. Rob, the former Superintendent and former principal here, she had taught me a lot and I learned a lot. I had a lot of support from a lot of great teachers. I don’t know if there is anything that sticks out as a challenge.

MS: What is your philosophy as a principal?

GS: Make sure it is right for kids. Make sure it is right for our students. If it is, I would do anything to make it happen. It is simple as that.

MS: During your tenure as principal you put in place a lot of different initiatives. Which ones do you think are the most important or perhaps the ones that people don’t talk about as much as they should?

GS: Well, what I think is cool are things like Palatine’s Promise that started when I was here. I think it is huge. But I don’t credit for that. That was really other people that did that. I just said they could do it and stayed out of their way. I just tried to support them. We have got a program called Project Excel that came about when I was here, but it was really the teachers here that made it work. Our Commit to the Pirate initiative is important. It may seem goofy to a lot of people. But, I think it is important, if you really drill down in to it. It is about telling people what you expect and then recognizing when they meet your expectations. It’s not just about the red tickets. I also really like the addition of homeroom as well. For seniors, it may seem goofy. But when it really takes of three or four years from now, I think homeroom will be incredible. Once students go through that four year process of having the same homeroom teacher for four years, it will be a game changer. So, I think that there has been a lot of things that have happened, but it is not because of me, it is because we have great teachers.

MS: Final question. How are you going to spend the $1000 award?

GS: Haha, here at Palatine. It will be donated to Palatine High School. Not going to spruce up the car or anything.

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.