Naples High School will start the 2021 school year off with many changes compared to last year, one of which will be the welcoming of Principal Ellen Keegan.
Keegan enjoyed leading Lely High School for the past few years, but she believes that having a change in the administration staff every once in a while is beneficial for schools.
“I think that a change is always good,” Keegan said. “[You] can get a new set of eyes on things that maybe have been done one way.”
With this new position, her goal is to support the school community in a way that makes a positive impact on all students, parents and teachers, while continuing the beloved traditions that have been rooted in Naples High’s history for years.
“My goal is to continue the great traditions that are here and to make a positive impact, that’s always my kind of goal,” Keegan said. “When I’m dealing with kids, teachers and the school setting in and of itself, one of my visions and goals in life is to make a positive impact. This is the oldest school in Naples, so I know it has some deep traditions. That’s really my goal for this, to learn all the traditions that are here, continue them and to hopefully make my own impression in that way.”
Learning about the needs of everyone at NHS will play a key role in her leadership, making sure that the views of students and staff are heard. To help foster an inclusive community where all feel welcome, being open to suggestions while maintaining stability in the classrooms will be key to creating a thriving atmosphere on campus.
“[There is] nothing really that I want to change, honestly,” Keegan said. “My goal, especially the first quarter and semester, is to really learn about how Naples runs and what the goals and visions of the teachers, academic coaches, support staff, students and families are, and kind of build on that.”
Due to the unprecedented changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Keegan recognizes the challenges that students faced. Virtual learning caused many to feel isolated, leading to a lost sense of belonging. She will work to build back a strong community on campus, helping students reconnect and heal from the hardships they encountered during the past year.
“That’s going to be our theme: connecting, really reconnecting,” Keegan said. “It is a time to reconnect and connect with teachers that you haven’t seen in a while and students you haven’t seen in a while. We have some new teachers that are coming on board and new non-instructional staff, so [our goal is] to connect with them and really to build the community of Naples back up.”
To help accomplish this, teachers and the administration are planning activities to help promote a stronger social life on campus. This will aim to assist with bonding between new and returning students, allowing friendships to be formed.
“We are going to do some activities, where we get the staff more involved in events that are happening around campus, as much as get the community, parents and students back, connected and involved in these events,” Keegan said. “We are going to do some lunchtime events for students where we have music on the lawn and I think that’s going to be my biggest goal the first semester, to build that back up.”
Along with reconnecting, Keegan also believes that one of their main responsibilities is to expose students to many different people, opportunities and courses to help them grow and be successful in life after graduation. Since many do not have any solid plans for the future yet, providing these resources will be vital in guiding them to their right path.
“One of the reasons I truly love high school is because they come in, so unsure of what they’re going to do, unsure of themselves and those four years, and to watch [them] grow throughout those years is really unbelievable,” Keegan said. “I think it’s important for us to expose students to as many different opportunities, cultures and traditions as we can, so they can decide for themselves, ‘Where do I want to go? What classes do I want to take?’ I don’t think any students really come out of high school, some do maybe with a clear path of what [they] want to do, but more so they’re kind of still deciding. So if we can expose them and give them different courses they can take and clubs to be a part of that maybe they wouldn’t see outside of school, that’s really what I think our job is.”
She has been on campus for the past six weeks, preparing for the new school year and getting to know the staff. Despite some initial worries, she describes the transition as a positive one, where she was introduced to many welcoming students, parents and teachers alike.
“I kind of opened my door and said I’d be here throughout the summer to come in, and that has really been nice because I’ve really been welcomed,” Keegan said. “I know there was a little trepidation here and there, coming from a rival school and how that’s going to be, but honestly it’s been wonderful.”
Keegan is looking forward to starting the school year, and once again creating a sense of community on campus and helping students get back together, taking a small step back to normalcy.
“It’s time to get back and get connected, to get that eagle pride,” Keegan said. “I think that’s really my biggest message.”