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New Hillside principal Erin Shadick has counseling background

Eric Shadick in her office at Hillside Elementary School in Cottage Grove. (Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner)

Growing up as the oldest of 24 cousins in a close family, Erin Shadick had a lot of experience being with children.

"I always knew I was going to work with kids," she said in an interview, Oct. 6, in her new office as principal of Hillside Elementary School in Cottage Grove.

She grew up in Eau Claire, Wis., and her parents still live there.

Shadick attended college at the University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse for her undergraduate degree and at Stout for her master's degree. She did her graduate studies at the St. Mary's University in Minneapolis.

After leaving college, she worked as a school counselor and as a social worker.

Shadick did a lot of work in elementary school classrooms in that position.

"I thought that was what I was going to do," she said.

But things changed after she moved to the Twin Cities and found that few elementary schools had counselors, so she worked in middle schools.

From her counseling role, she moved up to assistant principal for three years before coming to School District 833.

Unlike many principals who come up through the ranks from the classroom, Shadick's skills center on building interpersonal relationships. In classrooms, she took a proactive approach in teaching students how to deal with their feelings.

"My strength is in building relationships with families and kids," she said. "When dealing with an upset parent, in the end, they just want to know that you care."

The routine at the beginning of the school year includes going to kindergarten rooms to introduce herself and talk about what school principals do.

She acknowledges that kindergarteners have already heard from older children and parents that if they cause trouble, they will end up in the principal's office.

If that happens, Shadick tries to make that encounter a friendly one by explaining to children that she is a "helper."

With her counseling background, she is used to making "quick decisions" based on everyone's needs.

"I solve problems all day long," she said.

Coming to a new building where teachers and staff members already know each other is not easy, but Shadick said she used her first month to "make connections" and begin building relationships.

"My vision is the same as the district's in that all children can learn," she said. "It's a hard concept but we take them as they are."

Shadick has no children of her own, unless you count the school.

"I have 580 of them," she said.

As the owner of an "old house," she spends some of her spare time doing fix-up work. Shadick also enjoys gardening, going to live music concerts and belongs to a book club.

Though she doesn't mention it in Minnesota Viking country, as a native of Wisconsin, she is an avid Packer fan.

Coming to Hillside was definitely the right career move, Shadick said.

"You know you're in the right place when it feels like you've come home," she said.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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