WASHINGTON — Students at St. James School will see a familiar face in a new position.
Rebecca Clarahan has taken over as principal due to the retirement of former principal Beth McBride.
McBride was principal at St. James from 1995-2009 and returned in fall 2016. After being in teaching and administration for 43-and-a-half years, she retired on Friday, Jan. 10, with a special party at the school according to a news release.
Clarahan officially started as principal on Monday.
New principal Clarahan is originally from Sigourney but taught in Wilton before moving to Virginia to teach. She said she returned to the area after her mother’s death. McBride initially hired her as the Title 1/English Language Learners (ELL) teacher.
During the first semester of this school year, Clarahan was a first grade teacher. She said when she originally took the teaching job, it was not her intention to move up the hierarchy.
“When I first came (to St. James) I was finishing my first master’s in education, with a focus on curriculum, and then I went back again to get another master’s in educational administration,” she said.
In fact, education was never a path Clarahan thought she would take at all. During undergrad at the University of Iowa she studied prelaw. After deciding it was not the career for her, she took some time off and enrolled in school to become a dental assistant instead.
She spent seven years as a hygienist before deciding to go back to school, this time at William Penn University in Oskaloosa, for her teaching degree.
Throughout her career as an educator, Clarahan has never taught at a school as small as St. James. The school has 114 students ranging from three-year old preschool to fifth-grade, but Clarahan said it’s a welcomed adjustment. At her previous school, she taught three classes with 33 students each a day. At St. James, the smallest class is fifth grade with 10 students and the largest is the four-year old preschool class with 20.
As of Tuesday, Clarahan was only in her second day as principal but said she felt grounded and ready to take on the new task.
“I think it’s a blessing because I’ve been here for four years so I have relationships established with students, teachers, staff, parents. People know me and they’ve seen me in a lot of different roles,” she said. “It’s definitely been an interesting time of transition but I think it’s easier when you already have yourself established.”
Looking forward to the future, Clarahan said she has a list of goals she would like to see accomplished. Among them are integrating new curriculum, continuing to encourage, welcome and celebrate diversity and improving instructional practices for teachers so they can perform to the best of their ability.