By SNEHA BHATTACHARYA ABHINAV VAYYETI, sophomores
IN THE 14 YEARS that Ms. Pawlikowski has served as the principal of JP Stevens, she has seen JP grow and change.
“You can come here any time of night, and any day of the weekend, any hour, and we are always open, there’s always kids, there’s always something to do…We have just a great school community,” Ms. Pawlikowski said.
Starting July 1, Ms. Pawlikowski will be serving as the Chief Academic Officer of Secondary Schools. Her new responsibilities include overseeing the curriculum and the instruction of secondary schools.
“What’s different about my new job is that I’ll be working with all of the administrators in the secondary level in our district,” Ms. Pawlikowski said, when asked what her new responsibilities entail. “I’m really excited to see what’s going on in all the other schools and collaborating with others to give the students the best possible education they can receive.”
Prior to her career as principal, Ms. Pawlikowski attended Rutgers University and graduated with degrees in English and religion. She first started teaching English at Bishop Ahr High School and moved into the Edison Township School District when she began teaching at Herbert Hoover Middle School. When asked what prompted her to become a teacher, she replied, “I’ve known ever since second grade that I wanted to become a teacher. I loved school, I loved my teachers, and it just fit my personality. There were times I was thinking I would become an engineer, but when I was honest with myself, I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.”
Becoming an administrator was the next step for her, as she realized her potential to efficiently communicate with her colleagues and lead projects that would be beneficial to kids and help others. Although she hadn’t initially set out to become an administrator, these realizations led her to take additionalclasses to become qualified as an administrator. She then spent five years asan assistant principal at Edison High School.
In 2005, Ms. Pawlikowski became principal of JP Stevens. When asked what it was like when she first started at JP, she praised the helpfulness of those around her.
“People were so helpful. I have loved that from the minute I walked in here. I have always felt welcomed here. Teachers went out of their way to help me, and then I knew that we were all colleagues, no matter our positions. We all had the same focus, which was helping kids.”
Ms. Pawlikowski also added that when reflecting over her career as of yet, her beginning years after taking over the reins of principal of JP were the most meaningful.
“There are so many good things that have happened over 14 years, and they were all exciting, interesting, fabulous. There’s just so many good things that have gone on here over the time, but I do rememberthe first day walking in here and it began.”
After serving as principal for 14 years, a lot has changed for Ms. Pawlikowski and her experience of being principal. Ms. Pawlikowski emphasized how over time, increased familiarity with both students and faculty offered her the opportunity to help more people here at JP. Having more experience in her position allowed her to really understand what would make for a better education and better opportunities for the students.
“Once you’re comfortable with meeting all the requirements and making sure you’re doing everything right, it becomes second nature, and you can start looking at the details of what would make a better experience for a student and how to develop a stronger climate and culture here,” Ms. Pawlikowski said.
In order to inspire students and keep this positive atmosphere, Ms. Pawlikowski aims to instill a growth mindset in students at JP. Ms. Pawlikowski’s belief of growth mindset can be seen the moment youset foot into her office. The wall behindher desk has framed quotes from famous world leaders, such as Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama, that exemplify an individual’s innate ability to improve and make the world around them a better place.
“I believe in it wholeheartedly and you can never say we’re good enough. Everything is always changing, always evolving, and we want to make sure that we continue to give the kids what they need so that they’re not just ready for when they walk out the door, they’re ready for 10 years down the road. So that’s going to be an exciting opportunity I get to have in this new position,” Ms. Pawlikowski said.
Over the years, she has striven to accomplish this goal of creating the best possible experience for students by maintaining close relationships with her staff and student body.
“I’ve learned that it’s all about relationships. I’ve learned that you have to care about people and earn their respect, and in that, you can get an awful lot accomplished,” Ms. Pawlikowski said.
Ms. Pawlikowski continued to emphasize the importance of these relationships in understanding others: “I hope that our students will continue to work to improve those relationships, be good to one another, and always look to do the best for the person that’s in front of them at that moment. It’s said that fair is not equal, and that is absolutely true because here, we have students coming from different backgrounds and experiences. People react to those things differently, and people have different strengths and weaknesses, and you always have to look for their strength and allow them to run with that strength.”
Throughout her years of being principal, Ms. Pawlikowski has had the opportunity to witness approximately 600 students graduate each year. Knowing that hundreds of students every year were given the skills needed to go out into the world and make the most out of new opportunities makes graduation the proudest moment of each year for her.
“The kids work hard, and the teachers work hard, so I can’t take the credit for all that we accomplish at this school. But I can’t tell you how proud I am every year watching 600 to 700 kids graduate just knowing that the world is there for them. The world is absolutely there for them, and hopefully we just taught them to ‘carpe diem’—seize the day,” Ms. Pawlikowski said.
Although Ms. Pawlikowski would like to see a lot about JP stay the same following her departure, one change she would like to see is an expansion of the building.
“[An expansion] absolutely needs to happen … The space you know is an issue, the halls are very crowded, and when you’re overcrowded, you start to feel other things things happen that are not necessarily good for the kids,” Ms. Pawlikowski said regarding the upcoming Long-Range Facilities Master Plan.
Even with crowded hallways, Ms. Pawlikowski’s charismatic nature and kind personality stands out. Outside of school, Ms. Pawlikowski’s hobbies embody who she is as a person, embracing the values of hard work and self-growth.
“I’ve always been athletic and so I’ve loved sports. I have played sports all my life, but as you grow older, you have to change the sports that you play because your body can’t handle it, so I do golf. And, I love to watch sports,” Ms. Pawlikowski said. She also enjoys simply working out, “whether its walking or lifting weights, running on the treadmill, [or] doing some kind of exercise video.” Reading is another one of Ms. Pawlikowski’s hobbies, specifically materialon education. Most of all, Ms. Pawlikowski enjoys just “being here and supporting JP kids by coming to games and concerts.”
As Ms. Pawlikowski’s time at JP comes to an end, the student body would like to thank her for having such a positive impact on the school as a whole.
“I focused on developing a culture of goodness around here. I don’t just mean goodness as in only good people, I mean people who are going to go out into the world and work hard because they’re well-prepared.” Ms. Pawlikowski said. “I think that is something that we have managed to achieve here at JP.”