Enduring Excellence in Learning, Leadership, Innovation, and Service

STUDENT FOR A DAY: Principal Jeff Damadeo

Trent Ehrhardt and Jeff Damadeo

As part of understanding the student experience within the Indian Hill School District, each building principal received an assignment at the start of the 2019-2020 school year – to be a student for two days. The first shadow experience is with a student in the building they serve; the second is spent with a student at another building within the Indian Hill School District. This series captures the learning that resulted from the shadowing.

By Principal Jeff Damadeo

Snapshot of activities:
I had the pleasure of spending a day with Roman Dean, a sixth grader at Indian Hill Middle School (IHMS) and Trent Ehrhardt, a sophomore at Indian Hill High School (IHHS). Each day started riding the bus to their house and finished by going home on the bus in the afternoon.  While shadowing Roman, the day started with an immediate “good morning dance” in first bell, simply to get the students moving and ready to take on the day. The energy and enthusiasm that this cultivated was immediate and contagious. From diving into character development and theme identification in English, we transitioned to world geography, coding challenges in math, the periodic table in chemistry, and that was all before lunch! The second-half of the day was spent engaged in physical education where we played basketball, Spanish where we talked about dreams and friendship, and we finished the day singing in choir. While spending the day with Trent, we collaborated on his United States history project, solved geometrical equations, immersed ourselves into the psyche of a criminal during our great films class, and had an opportunity to scribe self-reflections within English. Spending this time immersed in both IHMS and IHHS was simply spectacular.

Before becoming an administrator, I taught high school science and psychology for 13 years. I loved teaching, and I miss the daily interactions and magic that happens inside a classroom each day. To have the opportunity to not only be within a high school classroom again, but also to experience sixth grade for the first time since 1991, was simply fantastic. The day was filled with an inherent love for learning by the students and a lot of fun!

As I reflect on the day the main emotion that comes to my mind is joy. Joy in learning; joy in the interaction that occurred between all of the students, whether in class, recess, lunch, or even on the bus. True learning occurs when students feel valued, encouraged, inspired, and empowered to be part of the learning process. This was evident throughout the entire day. In each of the classes I attended with Roman and Trent, the teachers welcomed me with open arms and allowed me to truly immerse myself in the learning process. I worked independently, within a pair, and in small groups. I had the chance to write, draw, speak, play hoops, run warm-up laps, and sang alongside a hysterical group of Braves. Each experience was reinforced with energy and praise.  

As an educator and a parent, I hope for my students and my own children that school is a place that makes them feel welcomed and is always a place they want to run into each day rather than run out of. My experience at IHMS and IHHS reaffirmed that dream and makes me feel very fortunate that I have the opportunity to work in this phenomenal community.

Not a day goes by where I do not reflect on how fortunate I feel to be part of a community like Indian Hill. As Braves, we are given permission to dream big for our students and constantly think of ways to improve and provide exceptional educational opportunities. We have the ability to think about what education should be, not simply what is has been. Any opportunity we have as administrators to witness this magic first-hand is an invaluable experience and one that truly illustrates the Indian Hill Promise. However, the #IHPromise is built on the ideas of passion and meaningful relationships between staff and students. Our teachers are simply incredible; never complacent, they continue to challenge themselves to ensure that lasting memories are created each and every day. Throughout the course of my day, I felt welcomed and energized being with our staff and our amazing students.  

What did the students think?

Roman Dean /Sixth Grade, IHMS: “It was fun! I really liked gym because Mr. Damadeo and I got to play basketball together. I liked that he helped me with some of the answers in class.”  

Trent Ehrhardt/Sophomore, IHHS: “It was pretty cool to have a staff member do what a student does every day. Mr. Damadeo got to see what a student does from a student’s perspective.”

Photo caption: Indian Hill High School Principal Jeff Damadeo shadowed two students as part of a professional development exercise to better understand the student experience.