JGS Welcomes New Principal

JGS Welcomes New Principal
Posted on 04/03/2023
Deanna Zilske

The Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District is thrilled to announce that Deanna Zilske has been named principal of Jaffrey Grade School for the 2023-24 school year. 

"Deanna is a dynamic, creative educator and leader. Her depth of experience, passion for learning, and dedication to enhancing the lives of children has been evident throughout her entire career,” said JRCSD Superintendent Reuben Duncan. “We are very excited that Deanna has chosen to join our team and serve as the next Jaffrey Grade School principal."

Zilske is currently the principal at Keene Middle School and has served in that role since 2017. Prior to that, she served as principal and an instructional coach at Harrisville-Wells Memorial School from 2013-2017. She has ten years of teaching experience, with many of those years coming in elementary settings. 

Zilske is no stranger to Jaffrey Grade School, having attended grades K-3 here as a child. It’s a school Zilske has only had positive memories of since childhood - something that ultimately drew her to apply to the position. 

“It’s an amazing opportunity to be able to principal a school you went to and loved so much,” said Zilske, who will begin the position on July 1. “A top priority for me will be to listen and learn. I want to honor and continue all of the incredible work that is already being done.”

Zilske has a BA in Theater Arts from Wittenberg University, an MTA in Elementary Education from Pace University, a CAGS in Education Administration from New England College, and a MS in Restorative Practices from the International Institute for Restorative Practices. She also has a background in and passion for theater, having over ten years of experience as a theater and music director for places like Keene Lions Club, Keene State College, Keene High School, and MoCo Arts.

“I plan to work with students, staff, and families to learn what is important to each of them and support their growth as a whole community,” said Zilske. “Through collaborating with members of the JGS school community I will learn what inspires them. We would then work together to integrate that into the learning for the students, empowering them to own their learning and grow and thrive in a supportive learning environment that extends beyond the walls of the school building.”

Zilske had an opportunity to meet with JGS staff, learners, and families last Tuesday before her nomination was unanimously approved by the school board. Zilske said she was blown away by the sense of community that continued to pop up throughout interactions with school and community stakeholders. Even learners discussed the importance of community, Zilske said, with one elementary learner telling her that the feeling of belonging was the most important thing for them in a school setting. 

“Community was such an important thing to every level of stakeholder; everyone spoke so strongly about how vital the community is,” said Zilske. “It is important to me that learners in a building feel connected to each other and to the broader school community. It is such an important piece developmentally for children, that sense of community and belonging. It helps to create a vibrant learning environment where everyone feels safe and heard, and is joyful about the learning experience.” 

Zilske will take over for departing JGS Principal Susan Shaw-Sarles, who will retire at the end of the 2022-23 school year after more than 20 years at the helm of the elementary school. 

“As Jaffrey Grade School's principal for the past 25 years, Susan has been an unwavering advocate for her staff and our JGS children,” said Duncan. “Of particular significance, Susan led the charge many years ago for the implementation of full day kindergarten and, more recently, played a critical role in ensuring our district provides universal full day preschool access to four year old learners in Rindge and Jaffrey. She will be sorely missed, but we are also excited for her as she explores what lies ahead."

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