What a Year: Dr. Damon Reflects on 1st Year at West
By: Emily Connor
As the 2021-2022 school year nears its end, I was curious as to how West’s new principal, Dr. Damon was feeling after her first year. Entering a new school as principal as students return from online learning has not been easy. This school year has been quite different from previous years, especially as we all continue to recover from the pandemic. However, everyone in the West community banded together as new beginnings came their way in the return to school.
I sat down with our principal to reflect on her first complete year at West. Dr. Damon expressed her nerves about starting the school year-thinking, “I don’t know anyone there. I knew my kids at my old school, and I wondered about how I was going to make those new connections.” Yet, that feeling didn’t last long, “Everyone here has been so wonderful. What do they need me for? It became this thing of I need to know my place, what difference am I going to make?”.
The Road to West
Dr. Damon’s previous school was Dobbins Technical High School in Philadelphia. CTE (Career & Technical Education) was the main focus at Dobbins, therefore, she advocates for bringing a similar model to West. Dr. Damon noted how she would love to have students focus on what interests them so that they can have background knowledge as they head into college. She stated, “CTE came about and I needed to make sure it was not about votech but it is more for career readiness. What if we had the opportunity to allow a child to take classes that interest them and will help them in college?”.
How does she feel now?
“I’m really loving it here, I’ve found my place.” When asked about her feelings for next year, she stated, “Oh, I’m ready to rock and roll. Now I know what I’m looking at and what I’m looking for.”
When asked about her goals for next year, she explained how she wants to add more student recognition around the building, “I want to see more things about colleges and careers on these walls here. From 9th to 12th grade you start thinking about the next step. I really want our time here to be getting us ready for the next stage, and you can see it on the walls.”
What has stood out to her in year 1?
“My favorite is the West Way. When I started, I wondered what the West Way was”. Dr. Damon speaks about how welcomed she felt and how she now understands what the West Way is by how the community exemplifies it. Continuing, she said, “It is about kindness and having empathy for others, but we really show that this is our way [of how we go about things]. I walk down the hallways and children speak [to me], and it’s not that superficial “hi”, its “how are you, how are you doing”, that’s the West Way.”
As a member of the Class of 2022, I thank Dr. Damon for a wonderful year at Cherry Hill West. It surely has not been a normal four years of high school, but as my class and I have leaned back into the groove of things, Dr. Damon has been there to help. This year has been full of lasting memories that the Class of 2022 will cherish forever. I wish Dr. Damon the best as she continues to lead this special school.