Meet your Principal: Amy Hom, P.S. 1 Alfred E. Smith Elementary School

Principal of Lower Manhattan

January 10, 2020

Please tell us a little about yourself, your background and what led you into educational leadership.

I have served as an educator for the Department of Education for the past twenty years. I earned my Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education at Syracuse University. Then, I completed two Master’s Degree one in Elementary Education at the University of New England and the other for Supervision and Administration at Fordham University.                                                                                        

I began my career as a classroom teacher and have been recognized for my work in the classroom by the Superintendent, the NYC Chancellor, and members of the National Board Certification. As a staff developer, I mentored teachers and administrators to implement the New Standards Project in New York City and across the country. My teaching practices in the classroom have been recognized nationally by Harvard University and the University of Pittsburgh. Furthermore, I am a published author with articles in teachers’ journals and professional books.

How long have you been with P.S. 1? Where were you before this?

I have been the Principal of P.S.1M for the past fifteen years. In the year 2000, I was appointed the Assistant Principal, which I remained for three years before accepting the Principal position at Alfred E. Smith Elementary School. For the past five years, I have served as the District 2 Chairperson for the Council of Supervisors and Administrators. In this role, I support and work with Principals and Assistant Principals in elementary schools and middle schools within District 2.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Inclusive, communicator (listener), empathic and grounded in the belief that every decision I/we make is about the children. They always come first. As Oprah Winfrey says, “Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.”

What is your school’s philosophy? Teaching style? How do you encourage that kind of culture?

I know in order for P.S. 1 to remain successful, my staff needs to embrace the natural talents of our children. I strive to develop teachers’ sense of appreciation of how the world works and how important school plays in a child’s life. It’s important as a community to work together, to motivate and encourage continuous learning in the children as well as to have them develop an awareness and appreciation for the world around them.  

What advice would you give to a new teacher on his/her first year?

My advice to new teachers is not to be afraid to ask questions, be open to learning, take risks and be reflective. In addition, remain focused so you can do one thing well even as all the other plates are still spinning.  

What strategies do you use to manage children with special educational needs?

Every child has an expertise in something.  It’s our job to identify it.  

What steps would you take if you are dealing with a student discipline incident?

Every child is different therefore every situation requires a slightly individualized solution or consequence. We work as a team to address social emotional needs and create a school environment where children are “happy” to come to school. We focus and work as a community to provide preventative strategies and skills and to make certain every child has a relationship with an adult in our school. We are constantly looking for and attending workshops and trainings such as culturally responsive classrooms, restorative circles, and borders crossers. We always attend as a team. 

How do you recruit and maintain quality teachers and staff members?

When we have a staff vacancy, we reach out to local universities for possible candidates. I also reach out to my colleagues and fellow principals for recommendations. We form a committee to interview the candidates. We identify candidates from their resumes and we invite prospective candidate to meet with us. The committee ranges from 4-10 staff members, including licensed area teachers to out of classroom coaches and administrative staff.  Such a structure will begin to support the building of relationships among the new hires and existing staff.  

I believe providing high-quality staff development and creating a culture of learning together to recruit and maintain quality staff members. Our professional development supports include coaches and master teachers on staff, consultants from Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project and UFT Teacher’s Center, and selected DOE and District 2 workshops to deepen our work to meet specific needs of our children. We develop a staff development plan for each staff member to strengthen their content knowledge and teaching practices.  It’s a continuous learning process.

What are some of your family favorite events that you host? Do you host any that are open to the public?

We host two family engagement nights a year, one focused on curriculum and one focus on our instructional goals.  We also host family events such as P.S. 1 Spring Concert and the Dual Language Chinese New Year Celebration. Furthermore, we hold events during the year opened to the public, i.e., Summer Saturday Apex Basketball League for children ages 8-16. 

Please tell us what makes your school unique from others in the area?

We are a Community Learning School in partnership with the UFT for the past four years.  This partnership has created an opportunity for our school to be a hub for services within our community.  We have partnerships with organizations for example to bring in mental health awareness, sports activities with the Downtown Soccer League, and visual arts with Sugar Hill Children’s Museum.  Also, we have the opportunity to create programs with Apex for Youth to meet the needs of our community such as mentoring and tutoring classes. Programs like Cookshop for Families, International Center and a partnership with the Chatham Square Library provide support for our immigrant parents and elderly who may be experiencing language and cultural barriers. These events expose our families to strategies to communicate with their children and expose families to different cultures and traditions.

Strong leaders are constantly learning. What is a great book or resource that has helped you grow and that you would recommend to others?

I’ve been inspired and moved to action by many books. I don’t think I can recommend one book in particular. I’ve taken pieces of best practices to support and build our school community. Right now I’m reading, Culturally Responsive Teaching & the Brain by Zaretta Hammond which will support one our school’s foci as we begin to deepen our discussions around culturally responsive classrooms.  

We want to get to know you a little better. Let’s play a round of quick questions. Tell us the first thing that comes to your mind:

Where are you originally from?  New York City

Do you have kids? How old are they? No, lots of nieces and nephews

Your favorite movie? Gone with the Wind

What is your dream vacation? Travel around the world on a cruise ship

What would the students be surprised to find out about you?  That I really don’t live in my office

What’s a typical Saturday night like for you? Trying to mentally disengage in order to prepare for the week ahead

How do you spend your summer breaks? My Saturdays are spent at school for the basketball summer league with Apex for Youth. I also enjoy fun summer reads. Currently, I’m reading “Crazy Rich Asians” by Kevin Kwan. I also enjoy at least one-week long trip away from New York City.

What are your “trapped on a desert island” books or movies? Right now it’s “Crazy Rich Asians” trilogy 

What is your favorite dessert? Crème Brulee 

What accomplishment fills you with pride? When children make that realization that they can voice their opinions and that it matters because it’ll make change

What inspires you? The children and how their minds work. Also, the opportunity to build relationships that impact others

What is the best thing about being a principal? When an adult comes to me to say, “I get this child”

Any advice you would like your students to remember, always? Be kind

A gift from your student/s that you value the most? End of the year students’ letters that show gratitude and kindness

Is there a quote or saying that you live your life by? Be kind and listen. 

Your favorite Spirit Day in school is… College T-Shirt Day, when the adults are beaming with pride as they speak to the children about their alma mater.  It’s wonderful to see how the children respond to the adult's excitement. 

Please offer some words of wisdom for the rest of us. 

Be kind.

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