As a high school principal looked back on her career, she realized how her experiences in St. Mary’s public schools came full circle at Chopticon High. Students who attended the school where she first became a principal, were part of the graduating class the first year she ran Chopticon.
Kim Summers is retiring after this school year from the home of the Braves and leaving St. Mary’s public schools after 32 years of service.
“It’s going to be quite the adjustment,” she said.
Summers has been in the education field since college. She spent 19 years as a school principal, three years as an assistant principal and another three as an instructional resource teacher, a classroom teacher for seven where she taught four different grade levels. Through that time she has come across parents she once taught — and students who were much taller than when she first met them.
Although she will miss her time as an educator, the 55-year-old said there are things she will not miss when she retires, like an alarm clock. She looks forward to not “planning my life around a calendar for the first time” and traveling with her husband.
“My husband tells me I’m probably going to struggle with feeling that I’m not making a difference for the first time,” she said.
But Summers did not want to wait until she no longer enjoyed her job to retire. Instead, she wanted to be in a good place.
Journey brought her to Morganza
Summers is a Charles County native and attended La Plata High School before attending St. Mary’s College of Maryland. As a student teacher, she was assigned to Lettie Marshall Dent Elementary School and was later offered a job there — after the school system talked her out of a teaching job in Charles County.
The pay was lower than in Charles, but it “wasn’t about the money,” Summers said. She added it was about where her heart was.
The former elementary teacher said she taught the afternoon kindergarten class at Lettie Dent and the morning kindergartners at Mechanicsville Elementary for six years. She spent the next eight years as an instructional resource teacher at Dynard and Oakville elementary schools, where her son met his future wife, for three years, another three years as an assistant principal at Oakville and eight years as a principal at Dynard.
Summers was on the committee that oversaw the preparation and opening of Evergreen Elementary School, not knowing she would be asked to run it when it was finished. She helped pick out the furniture, school colors and mascot. “I never in a million years thought I would be principal,” she said.
After seven years, Summers said she was ready for her next challenge — high school.
She was already familiar and involved with Chopticon, since her oldest son attended the school and played three sports as a student. When a principal position opened up, the mother of two said she “gave it a shot.” She got the job and was back in the northern part of the county.
“She’s the first female principal of Chopticon,” Lynne Molen, secretary to the principal, said. Molen worked at the school since the 1990s and has seen several principals come through the doors during that time. What stood out about Summers, she said, was her work in elementary schools.
“I think that was a good perspective to bring to a high school,” she said. “She already had everything you need in a principal.”
Molen noted her son attended Dynard while Summers was the principal, and that Summers lives in the community, which makes a difference.
Molen is trying to talk her into staying, but said the future retiree is set on leaving after the school year.
Superintendent Scott Smith said he also does not want Summers to leave. “She was all smiles [Tuesday] morning because it was her last first day, but it was going to be my job to convince her to stay,” he said. He later added that he thinks her mind is already made up.
Looking back on her career
Summers reconnected with her former students when she started at Chopticon. During her first graduation ceremony, she asked the students who attended Dynard Elementary when she was the principal to stand and about 70 graduates rose to their feet.
“And now the kids walking these halls, I taught their parents,” Summer said.
She said it was important for her to see the students who were ninth-graders when she started at Chopticon, go to 12th grade.
She remembered when a parent came into Evergreen Elementary while she was principal to register her child for school. “Oh, my gosh, I was your teacher in kindergarten,” Summers recalled saying to the mother. The former Evergreen principal said she took a picture with the new kindergartner and recreated a photo she took years ago with the mother.
Summers said the last 32 years have gone by quickly but filled her with purpose and good intention. “There’s no greater gift,” she added.
The principal said she does not want it to seem like her education experience was easy — it came with “many, many challenges.”
Some of the challenges she said she faced in recent years revolve around social media, especially in high school, and the lack of interpersonal interaction. “It scares me as an educator and as a person,” she said adding it can be a disruption to education.
However, she said she learns from the challenges, remains optimistic and treats every day as a fresh start.