At Langston Hughes Academy there are leaders and influencers who help students realize the “College for Certain” motto. The school’s most influential member is Principal Dr. Geigle who is at the forefront of the school’s direction and management of policies and programs. With the recent pandemic, students have lost touch with Dr. Geigle as the school transitioned to distance learning. Journalist Alejandro Avila got in contact with Dr. Geigle to observe the current state of the school and see what the Principal is doing to manage the school despite distance learning. In order to understand Dr. Geigle’s goals, we need to see his personal background, how he’s handling the present, and what he plans for the future of LHA.
Dr. Geigle began his LHA career a few years ago as a teacher. He was inspired by his 11th grade teacher who “took the time to know relationships with his students and [him]in particular.” Dr. Geigle felt “undecided,” but it was his instructor who “encouraged [him] to go to Delta” he stated. At Delta College, Geigle met a professor whose class “increased [his] writing abilities and critical eye for literature,” inspiring him to transfer to San Jose University with “the intent to teach English.” After receiving his degree in teaching, Dr. Geigle came back to Stockton, where he taught for four years at LHA. “Ultimately, I aspired to be director of curriculum at Able charter schools, to open their K-5 school attached to them” he stated. However after a while, Dr. Geigle stated that he felt a “calling to come back to LHA…LHA is dear to my heart. It was my first teaching gig outside of college.”
Dr. Geigle has now been the principal for two consecutive years, and reflects on his experience between his teaching career, and his job as the principal. “The responsibility shifts,” he stated, “You’re responsible for 84 adults, you’re responsible for 826 students.” In order to manage the school, Dr. Geigle mentioned that it is important to have “open leadership.” His approach to leading is to “put people’s well-being at the forefront… find the win in each individual person… value diversity, and be able to include structure that brings diverse thought and community.” Through open leadership, Dr. Geigle hopes to empower students to feel confident in their skills, “offer solutions to complex challenges… feel included, and valued.”
With the pandemic, the school shifted into distance learning, changing school structure. “At school, the majority of my time is spent with instruction, and behaviours,” Dr. Geigle mentioned, “Really getting into the classroom and having as many conversations around behaviour, especially through my first year as principal, to set the expectation.” However, now that there is no physical contact with students and staff, Dr. Geigle stated that the focus has changed towards, “social emotional needs of our students.” For him, his number one priority is to make students feel safe because it is his “responsibility that [students] are under our care. To not have that presence with [students and] our community, that becomes a stress.” It’s important to be there for the people who need help, and within the past year there have been many student tragedies that “hit the school community hard. We really try to show for the kids that need us, the families that need us, and the teammates that need us.” Nowadays, Dr. Geigle spends most of his time being “available to parents, individual students, and groups of students.” With this in mind, Dr. Geigle found that during quarantine, it became equally important to care for himself more. Having to worry about the wellbeing of the school is a difficult task, which can lead him astray from his own care. “This job feels maternalistic or paternalistic,” Geigle stated, “We forget to focus on ourselves, or our own families or kids.” With a huge responsibility, Geigle plans to incorporate a schedule that closes “all those work tabs,”(mentally) “Don’t focus on what is going on outside, and focus on self care.” Through trying times, Principal Geigle establishes the need to support students to help them get through challenges, as well as caring for himself so that he can carry out his work effectively.
Dr. Geigle also has many arrangements for the future that he wants to implement into LHA. Dr. Geigle plans to ”Expand diversity, outreach, and overall community,” and hopes that “Our instructional program will grow.” His plan to do this is to bring more school electives to make the instructional program more diverse than it was in previous years. With feedback from the community, Dr. Geigle hopes to incorporate classes in “visual performing arts… STEM, and trying to offer more course offerings… Social and Racial Justice… as well, with Ethnic studies.”
Bringing classes that can lead students to future careers like, “towards the path of Engineering, that would truly be incredible.” Another plan that he hopes to be fulfilled is finishing the long awaited sports field many students have wanted for years. “Years from now, I really would like to see the community have a soccer field, and maybe a couple baseball diamonds,” hopefully to “hone in that LHA pride and community.” Dr. Geigle plans to achieve these things within the next 5-10 years.
Dr. Geigle makes it his duty to make sure that students get the resources and materials to not only succeed, but feel welcomed and encouraged as well. It is his passion to work with students, and guide them to future success and achievement. Dr. Geigle is working intensely to advance the school in its diversity and access to programs and materials. LHA continues its path of fulfilling the “college for certain” promise, and brings that dream to fruition to all of its students thanks to Dr. Geigle’s hard work and open leadership.