This Q&A feature helps readers learn more about people working in the Mount Vernon business community. This week’s Q&A profiles Washington Mill Elementary School principal Dr. Lizette “Tish” Howard.
Howard lives in Fredericksburg and has driven more than 100 miles round trip daily to get to WMES for 10 years. She has lived in Virginia for more than 20 years. Originally from western Pennsylvania, Howard earned her bachelor's and master’s degrees in speech and language pathology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and received her PhD in education leadership and counseling from George Mason University.
While completing her postgraduate work, Howard was a contributing writer to the USA Today educational web site, and continues to mentor prospective administrators. She has been nominated for “Principal of the Year” honors, recognized by the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development for development of positive school climate, and featured in numerous television and print articles.
Prior to her role as a school administrator, Howard served 10 years as a speech and language pathologist. She served as an education consultant for local preschool and summer camp experiences. She designed an educational summer experience for low socioeconomic children that focused on providing a foundation for the academic challenges they would face in the upcoming academic year. Howard also has served on the Minority Student Achievement Board, and has presented programs on intervention methods at the local school and university level.
In 2009, Howard wrote Poverty Is NOT A Learning Disability: Equalizing Opportunities For Low SES Students. The book highlights various proven strategies for increasing the academic performance of students with low school-readiness skills.
She has three children, ages 45, 43 and 42, as well as two grandchildren, ages 14 and 9.
How did you become interested in your line of work?
After raising three kids on my own, at age 38, I started working with an elderly woman who was recovering from a stroke. I immediately became fascinated with the language acquisition part of her therapy, and I decided to go to school to learn more about it. I started working in a nursing home, but quickly realized that I truly wanted to get more into the world of education, and use those skills to help children. When I was working in Franconia as a speech pathologist, the principal there told me I wouldn’t be happy until I could make policy for kids. That’s when I decided to go back to school to get my masters degree.
Talk about what you do on a day-to-day basis at WMES.
What I do is make sure that each and every child in our school is looked at as a unique entity, and that we make every effort to define their strengths and weaknesses as individuals. They are all entitled to an equal chance for success. It doesn’t matter where a person comes from, or the fact that some children have to take different paths to get there, but the expectations for all kids should always be the same.
As a principal, do you learn something new everyday?
Yes, definitely. Everyday I learn something new, and that is honestly what keeps my job interesting. That is also why I have been driving 100 miles round trip for 10 years…no day is ever the same.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I like watching children have that “breakthrough.” Whether a lightbub comes on regarding an educational concept or a child’s newly found confidence, that’s what I enjoy most about being a principal. It’s amazing to see when our educators, parents and community members realize how powerful their influence can be in helping a child’s educational success. Every child has potential, and we as educators and parents just need to help them explore all of the possibilities.
Where is your favorite place to go and relax?
There’s a beautiful place called Vintage Ridge Wineries, it’s located in the Shenandoah Mountains and I love to go there. It’s very peaceful.
What are your hobbies?
Reading, cooking and gardening.
Do you have a favorite area restaurant?
Geranio’s Restaurant in Old Town.
What is the last book you read?
Half the books on my Kindle are fun, the other half are educational. I just finished reading Education Unbound: The Promise and Practice of Greenfield Schooling, by Frederick M. Hess. Currently, I am reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett.
What’s on your iPod?
I like a lot of different types of music. But mostly you’ll find anything from the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s and country music.
Any hidden talents you’d like people to know about?
I really enjoy writing. Right now, I’m in the middle of writing my second book.
If you weren’t in this business, what would you be doing?
Cooking. I think I would go to cooking school.