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This is Ira Kleiman: Principal at Westfield Charter Academy

“All kids are interested in learning about something,” says Ira Kleiman, principal at Westfield Charter Academy. “It’s our job to find out what.”

There will always be a student who isn’t fully convinced that learning is cool, but it’s how a principal or teacher combats this that makes a difference. It takes time and effort to help students find their passions, but the end result is worth so much more. That’s why taking the time to get to know his students makes Kleiman stand out as a principal, but his impact doesn’t stop there.

Building relationships with students is a must for principals but making them feel cared about is even more important. If his students could say anything about him, he believes it would be, “he knows my name, he cares about me, he really likes pizza, his favorite superhero is Batman, and he can be silly at times.” This reiterates the emphasis he puts on getting to know his students. He learns their names and truly cares about each one of them, and they know it.

He believes in each of his students and wants them all to succeed, which is why he always tells them to replace “I don’t get it” with “I don’t get it yet.” These words of encouragement spark motivation and determination in students to strive to do their best. His advice illustrates the importance of perseverance, one of our Moral Focus virtues.

His passion for education blossomed from a positive experience he had at school as a child. He believes that if he hadn’t gone to a great school with great teachers, then he wouldn’t have been successful. This experience is a strong motivator to help his students grow into successful individuals and being a principal allows him to help this become a reality for his students.

After having been a middle school science teacher for a while, he had the opportunity to sub for his assistant principal, he says. From then on, he knew he wanted to be a principal. Among many other things, his favorite part about being a principal has been “seeing students grow academically, emotionally, and socially.”
His drive to care for his students makes him a positive school leader and role model. He believes that a great principal cares about kids and listens to them, echoing the best advice he ever received, and words he lives by: “Most people listen to respond instead of listening to understand.”