NORTH LIBERTY– School is out of session and summer is in full swing, but back-to-school preparation has already started for some.
Educator Nick Proud, the new principal at Garner Elementary School in North Liberty, has been working tirelessly over the last weeks to get ready for the upcoming school year– his first year as a principal.
Proud’s daughter, Ainsley, is starting a first of her own this year as she enters kindergarten at Garner Elementary.
“It’s both of our first day at school at Garner this fall. We’re excited about that,” Proud said.
It’s a familiar feeling for Proud. His parents were both teachers in the grade school he attended; his dad coached him in sports, and his mom taught him in art class.
Proud said his parents are two of his biggest influences in education, and the opportunity to work at the same school as his children was one of the big reasons he chose to work at Garner Elementary.
Proud, 34, said he never doubted or hesitated in his decision to strive for a degree in education, which he earned from Mt. St. Claire University. He has a lineage of teaching in his family, and said it was something was always bent on doing. He remembers frequently being around school– whether at the football stadium just up the street, or in the classroom three blocks away–was an extension of the Proud household.
“School was just our lives. I didn’t know much else, but I knew I enjoyed it and I loved it,” he said.
Proud began his career as a third grade teacher at Polk Elementary, then taught fourth grade at Prairie View Elementary, where he worked his way up to associate principal. He credits his success and preparedness for administrative work to his time at Prairie View, and his work with associate principal Amy Beach and principal Greg Leytem.
“It was great. [Leytem] prepared me well for this opportunity, growing me as an early administrator,” Proud said.
Proud began his administrative career at age 27, which he said is considered young for that particular field. Leytem said he found Proud to be a thoughtful, bright, capable young educator when Proud taught the fourth grade at Prairie View Elementary.
“He showed a lot of potential, and has not disappointed me in the work he’s done over the last six years,” Leytem said.
Leytem said Proud has a tremendous work ethic, and played a critical role into the success of planning the district’s building of Prairie Point, which now approaches its fifth year of use.
“It was a lot of work, but he was right there alongside of me working,” Leytem said.
That hardworking mindset is something Proud strives toward, and as an educator, his motto is to “do what’s best for kids”– a motto that Leytem said gives him full confidence in Proud’s ability to lead an administration.
“Once people see you’re willing to work hard and you’re always making good decisions for kids, or putting that extra effort for kids, no one really worries about how old you are,” Proud said. “They see that your intentions are pure and good, and you want to see kids be successful. That’s all that matters.”
Leytem said Proud is capable of handling tough decisions by not drifting toward the easiest way, but instead striving for the right way– the way that considers the students first. Proud said his goal is to be able to put his head to the pillow each night knowing he has done just that.
“I want to bring the kids some excitement for school, excitement for learning, and some hope that they can really set their lives on a great path, and see that they have some potential, see that they have a future, and maybe see they have something in them that can be bigger what their reality seems to be.”