New Sierra House principal getting to know students, parents |

New Sierra House principal getting to know students, parents

Sara Thompson

Jonah M. Kessel / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Sierra House Elementary School has a new principal roaming the halls, and that’s Ryan Galles.

Galles’ hiring was announced at the Oct. 14 Lake Tahoe Unified School District Board meeting, and his first day was Monday.

On his first day at Sierra House, Galles received a helping hand from Jim Watson, former principal and newly hired human-resources officer for the district.

Relationships aren’t built overnight, but Galles said he wants to keep continuity to help the staff and students adjust to him after spending four years with Watson.

Watson said not many new people have entered the district lately, so he was happy to help Galles with the transition from Anderson Elementary School in Dixon. Galles’ family still is in Davis, where he and his wife, Carey, went to school. They have two sons: Reid, 4 1/2, and Reilly, 2 1/2.

The weekend before Galles started at Sierra House, Watson met with him to discuss how to make the first day go smoothly for Galles, the staff, students and parents.

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“It’s extremely helpful to have people who exited the position not so far away,” Watson said.

So far, Galles has met a lot of parents by talking to them after school when they pick up their children, but said he would love to host an ice-cream social to meet everyone.

Galles’ previous experience as principal includes working with English-language learners, and he’s familiar with working in a Program Improvement district, which makes him a good match for Sierra House.

He wants to continue some programs he started at his old school, such as giving students tokens for positive behavior.

After accumulating so many tokens, students could turn them in for different events, such as pizza with the principal. A local pizza place in his old school district would donate pizzas, and students would turn in their tokens to eat pizza with Galles. Another event was watching a movie with the principal after school.

“I want to keep things as positive as possible,” Galles said.

Galles likes to make himself accessible to students and parents.

“If I don’t get out for recess, lunch and pickup duty, then I missed my chance,” Galles said. “The paperwork will always be there when I get back.”

One thing Galles enjoys is eating lunch with the students. Occasionally, the task is difficult when five kids are talking at once, but he likes the interaction.

“I want to interact with all kids, not just the ones who get in trouble and have to go to the principal’s office,” Galles said.

Originally, Galles thought he would go to law school, but he got bitten by the education bug.

When he was in graduate school for history, he substituted for a fifth-grade class, and the experience changed his career direction. He decided to go back and earn his teaching credentials because he liked the experience so much.

Ever since then, Galles has enjoyed working with elementary school-aged children.

“They’re enthusiastic to learn, and they wear their hearts on their sleeves,” Galles said. “You receive immediate feedback from them.”

Elementary school is a crucial time period for academic and social success, Galles said. Any teachable moment can’t be passed up, such as bullying or teasing, because that experience will shape the students’ development and potentially add to their success when they enter middle school and high school.