New principal ‘called upon’ to lead students, staff

Charlotte Geyskens, Staff Writer

As the teenage daughter of a minister coming of age in southwest Iowa, Taya Kinzie spent those years focused on community-centered work, spending her childhood volunteering. Although Dr. Kinzie didn’t originally intend to work in education, her path eventually brought her to ETHS, where she worked for 18 years until eventually becoming principal and assistant superintendent at the beginning of the 2022 school year. 

Kinzie’s first experience with ETHS came in the form of an internship, which she completed in 1997 while also pursuing her masters in social work. Eventually, she left to do mental health and community oriented work.

“I got my certification to be a school social worker, but I decided to do community mental health [instead], and then I kept ending up doing service provision in schools. [I thought,] why am I not going to do this?” 

When the supervisor of her previous internship contacted her to let her know that a social work position had opened at ETHS, she accepted. For nine years, she worked as a social worker, specifically in special education, before being offered a position as the Dean of the Class of 2015. In the position, she had the opportunity to connect with and get to know students. 

“That was amazing, because we really… focused on prevention, early intervention and problem solving, instead of [students being] sent to the dean’s office… purely as a consequence. And so many students really do a great job of coming into the dean’s office to be part of the problem solving process before something gets big,” says Kinzie. 

After her time as dean, she became the Associate Principal for Student Services for seven years, during which time she had a chance to work closely with Superintendent Dr. Marcus Campbell. 

“I was really fortunate to have worked alongside him and [have him] as my direct supervisor. And we share a vision about how to support staff about how to develop relationships and [trust] with students and staff members,” explains Kinzie.

In her 19th year at ETHS, Kinzie has taken on a new position as principal, one that she never envisioned herself taking on.  Still, she holds many of the same values now that she did in her past positions, both as a dean and a social worker. 

“Thinking about that invitation [to be principal], and thinking about what you’re called upon to do, I wasn’t planning on any of these pieces. [But] I work really hard to try to support students and to support staff. I’m really committed to that. There are ways that I can contribute to our school community.” 

Some of the issues that Kinzie is mainly focused on are student support and discipline, student mental health and LGBTQ+ issues. 

As principal, Kinzie is constantly collaborating with Campbell. While Campbell handles wider issues with the school and District 202 as a whole, Kinzie’s role is more concentrated on ETHS itself and the students within it. 

“I respect [Campbell] tremendously, and we work very much in sync right now,” says Kinzie. 

In terms of the relationship between Campbell and Kinzie, the warm feelings are mutual. 

“I’m thrilled to have Dr. Kinzie on board as Assistant Superintendent and Principal. We have worked together for several years. She has always been fair, collaborative, full of integrity and genuinely warm,” says Campbell. 

Kinzie is also being faced with the unique challenge of helping students and ETHS as a whole get back on track after COVID.

“I think some of the changes we’re making [are] in response to going through a pandemic, coming back and working to be really supportive, flexible and focused on grace. We learned along the way that we might need a little more structure because we’re still in high school.” 

Despite all challenges, Kinzie is especially proud to be working at ETHS with this specific group of students. She wants to make an effort to connect with individual students and to allow students and their families to bring their concerns to her directly.  

 “I think our students are amazing, brilliant, creative and super resilient,” she says, “I love that we give [them] so much room and we keep expanding ways for students to show their greatness, and not just in really traditional ways. Because when we think about student involvement, and we think about all the clubs and activities, and athletics and all these opportunities, we keep looking for additional ways for students to show leadership.”

ETHS has been through a multitude of changes recently, both in the last two years and since Dr. Kinzie became principal. The school is sure to continue changing as years pass and people come and go. Luckily, Kinzie is no stranger to diverse, developing communities, and she has plans to ensure that ETHS continues heading in the right direction.