Adam Schmucker ’96 Named National Distinguished Elementary Principal
Photo Caption: Trumbauersville Elementary School Principal Adam Schmucker interacts with fifth-grade students in their classroom. Schmucker was named Pennsylvania’s National Distinguished Principal by the National Association of Elementary school principals. ART GENTILE / STAFF PHOTOJOURNALIST BUCKS COUNTY COURIER TIMES
“It’s a community event,” says Adam G. Schmucker ’96 of his approach to leading Trumbauersville Elementary School in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.
That is the key to why Schmucker was recently named Pennsylvania’s National Distinguished Principal by the National Association of Elementary School Principals — leading a community of students, teachers and staff who talk to each other, and who listen and are receptive to each other.
Trumbauersville Elementary is a mid-sized, K-5 school of about 400 students in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. Schmucker says the school is “small enough for kids to be able to know me, and big enough to have the opportunity to expand their world view.”
Award criteria like “creating an environment where all students can excel” and fostering “development and collaboration among staff and faculty” sound abstract until Schmucker talks about how they become reality every day at Trumbauersville Elementary. In short, his goal is to provide support for every member of the school community.
“No principal can – or should – do things in isolation,” Schmucker says. From kids to teachers to cafeteria staff, “It’s a community event from the time the kids arrive until they get on the bus. It’s hard and it’s always kind of messy, but it works.”
“We really try to talk to each other,” he says, “I just try to listen and be receptive to ideas.”
Schmucker is more roll-up-your-sleeves, sweater vest kind of guy rather than a suit-and-tie leader, who subscribes to management by walking around. “It’s easy to get caught in the technology and the email in-box,” he says, preferring to be face to face. “Usually one interaction leads to another and next thing you know, in a short walk down the hall you’ve met four people and addressed five things.”
Helping both students and faculty excel includes regular “inquiry meetings” where teachers bring a piece of work or an issue and “think it through, look at it and have takeaways for the kids’ learning.” It also includes strategies like revising reading lists to encompass quality, contemporary literature that speaks to important topics that children may not get to see in their every day lives.
“We are always looking at what we can do better, always working to support student-focused teaching and learning. It’s not just big people disseminating information to little people,” he says. “That is at the root of what we do, helping kids understand the world.”
The Distinguished Principal Award also recognized Schmucker for his role coaching other principals through the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Inspired Leadership program, acting as a facilitator and mentor, and meeting monthly with a cohort of principals in their first five years in that role.
Schmucker, who graduated from ESU with a degree in elementary education and minors in Spanish and special education, earned a master’s degree in bilingual education from the University of Colorado/Boulder. He is currently working on his doctoral degree from Lehigh University. “I like to keep learning, like to keep growing,” he says.
At ESU Schmucker was a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national honor society for leadership, and Phi Sigma Iota, the national honor society for foreign languages. His Spanish language skills serve him often with families whose first language is Spanish. “It is fun for me, and supportive for the families when I can easily communicate with them.”
The environment at Trumbauersville Elementary that Schmucker fosters is similar to what he experienced at ESU. “One thing I really liked was the connections I got. ESU is small enough that they were able to know me, sit down and talk to me, and big enough that I had opportunities to expand my world view.”
And like his experience at ESU, Schmucker says as a principal, “In my leadership I want to know the kids and give them attention, and open them up to a world beyond what they know right now.”
Terry Barry, Ed.D., dean of the College of Education, calls Schmucker “a perfect testament to what our education program represents. The true purpose is making a difference in the lives of the students we serve.”
Asked if he has a favorite part of the school day, Schmucker says it is any interaction with his students. Nothing makes him happier than when a child comes up and wants to share something with him.
With a chuckle, Schmucker recalls an encounter that he and his family (wife Jessica, and children Claire, 16, and Emmett, 14) still joke about. One day at bus dismissal, a little kindergartener waved at the principal with a big smile and shouted, “Goodbye Mister Mushywasher!” Schmucker laughs and says the important thing is not that the child gets his name right, but that he “just knows I am here to help him.”