Shortly after it was announced that Denise Sopa was being transferred for the new school year, she headed to Bay View Elementary.
"I went and met the staff after school. I thought it was important. I shared my professional background and told them about me personally. They needed to know that I'm elementary (experienced) and that I'm collaborative and have an open door policy," said Sopa. "I wanted to alleviate their fears. I have a lot to learn there but once I get there it will all come together."
And although she has worked in a middle school for the last four years, Sopa got her start on the elementary level. For a decade, she taught third and fourth grades at Kenmore Elementary.
She was also a local support teacher part time. She then worked as an assistant principal at Gilpin Manor and Thomson Estates. She was principal at Cecil Manor before moving up to middle school four years ago.
"Now I'm going back to elementary. It may be more of a natural transition than I think. Now, I'm a little rusty. But it will all come back. But there have been a lot of changes on the elementary level with curriculum, scheduling and the grading policy," she said. "I didn't think I was cut out for middle school. At that time (I was assigned to North East), I had a fifth grader and an eighth grader. Now, I have a senior and a freshman (Sopa has two sons). I know I'll love it. It's just getting back into the mindset."
Sopa said she does have an advantage. Bay View is a feeder school to North East Middle. She already has relationships with families whose children attend Bay View. "Bay View has a good staff and it's the same community. I'm still serving the North East community. A lot of parents have congratulated me. They have kids at Bay View. That will help with the transition," she said.
Dr. Dingle missed time at Bay View. Becky Miller was appointed as acting principal. Sopa knows Miller well. "Becky has been acting principal. She and I have a common philosophy. We are on the same page and have the same vision. We will be a great team," she said.
But while Sopa is looking ahead, she will miss the middle school. "Middle school is interesting. They come in as quiet sixth graders. By the time they leave, they are young adults," said Sopa.
North East Middle also had a mentoring program this year. Sopa signed on for that and served as a mentor to five eighth grade boys. She said she enjoyed that. She is also proud of the school's National Junior Honor Society and the service they provide to the community. "And the number of teachers who give their time after school for all kinds of clubs. A lot of teachers here do that," said Sopa.
She admits her first reaction to the transfer was fear.
"I was surprised. I was nervous. It will be like going back home. I'm excited to work there. I've heard great things about the staff and the school," she said.
"Change is always hard and makes you nervous. But my transfers have always been my biggest period of personal growth. You get comfortable in one place and the learning curve is by doing something new. I wouldn't be the type of leader I am. The changes have always been for the better. I've learned so much. When you get a new position, you can reinvent yourself if you need or want to. That's an opportunity to do some of those things and make these changes," she added.