By Kim Walter
STRASBURG -- Students in Shenandoah County were likely anxious the night before their first day back in school, but one administrator may have been even more nervous.
Robin Shrum, the new principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School, admitted that she didn't sleep a wink Monday night.
"Even as a teacher, I always got nervous the night before the first day of school," she said Tuesday afternoon. "It's so exciting to think about the start of a new year and seeing new kids, but this year I really had to prepare for change."
Shrum, who lives in Woodstock with her husband and yellow Labrador, has worked in Shenandoah County for the past 16 years. She started out teaching chorus at Stonewall Jackson High School and North Fork Middle School on the southern campus in Quicksburg.
From there, she shifted to the central campus in Woodstock, taking on the role of general music educator at W.W. Robinson Elementary School.
Over the years, Shrum said she began picking up more and more administrative duties, and even earned her master's in business administration a few years ago.
When the opportunity arose for her to put her degree to work, she couldn't help but say yes.
"I really like the idea of how every day presents something different when you're a principal," she said. "And I think I've really found my niche working at the elementary school level."
As a music teacher, Shrum said she would try and find ways to incorporate core curriculum into song and dance. Elementary school students are often more open to the idea of using the arts to further learning.
"They are so enthusiastic about trying something new, different and silly," she said.
Last year, Shrum developed a song and dance that helped students review SOL subjects. While she hasn't had a chance to teach anything music-related at Sandy Hook, she said she hopes to bring her passion for the arts into her new position at some point.
Shrum's first day was spent meeting and speaking with as many students, parents and teachers as possible. She said it was encouraging to see more smiles than tears from children and parents alike.
Walking around the cafeteria during the first grade lunch, students waved and hugged their new principal. The lack of intimidation was exactly the kind of thing Shrum said she was hoping to see.
"I think it's so important that students realize that seeing and talking to the principal doesn't only happen when you're in trouble," she said. "I want these kids to feel comfortable approaching me, and know that I am here to help."
Shrum also wants parents to know they are always welcome to come to her with any concerns. She said given the intense community reaction to tragic events in Newtown, Conn., she knows how important safety is when parents send their children to school.
The elementary school is one of several buildings in the county that now has a buzzer and intercom system. Shrum said it only slightly slowed down the drop-off process Tuesday morning, but in general parents understood.
Dr. Devin Castner, acting superintendent, visited all the division's schools on Tuesday, but wasn't immune to the stricter entrance system.
"I had to press the buzzers, too," he said. "It was something different for a lot of folks, but it's a necessary layer of protection."
Overall, Castner said he was impressed by the smoothness of the opening day.
"Within 15 minutes of walking into a school and going through the halls, I could see that kids were doing what they were supposed to be doing," he said. "And the facilities are immaculate. Everyone was ready to go."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org