Education column: New principal likens job to coaching

Nearing the end of the school year, we took the opportunity to speak with some of our principals to hear their reflections. What we heard were things like: “We have great kids and a caring, dedicated staff; remarkable academic gains; and wonderful instructional collaboration that’s taken place among instruction teams.” Secondary principals also emphasized the success they’d observed with the increased collaboration between teachers and instructional teams at the secondary level.

One of our newest principals, Tandee Delk, is just finishing up her first year as principal at Barry Elementary. Delk is a native of Melrose, raised on a farm. As such, she is no stranger to hard work. She comes from a family of educators; in fact, her mother was Sherolyn Bostwick, long time English teacher at Clovis High School and later secondary librarian.

Delk decided to go into education as a result of being inspired by her high school basketball coach, who, not surprisingly, was also a great teacher.

“Good coaching is about building character, becoming the best you can be, and building unique relationships,” she said.

As a young adult, her perspective was broadened when she had an opportunity to play on a specially assembled team that spent a few months in China scrimmaging with the Chinese Olympic basketball team.

“We expected it to be easy, assuming that the Chinese players were small; but when we first saw them, they were towering, highly skilled players,” she said.

Delk’s passion for coaching translated readily to education when she came back to finish her studies at Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU) in Portales, further inspired by her history professors there. Upon completion, she got a job teaching and coaching in Melrose, her hometown, and later served as athletic director in Floyd.

After taking a few years off to spend with her boys, she came back as a history teacher at the Freshman Academy. When the opportunity arose, she took the principal’s position at Barry Elementary.

“Being a principal is like coaching because you’re building those tight, character-based relationships with your teachers,” Delk said. “I believe it’s important that teachers love their jobs and consider it a calling. It’s also critical to have high expectations for our students. The kids love success and get so excited when they succeed.”

What would she change?

“More parent involvement. Parents don’t realize how important their influence is, and they love to see their parents helping out at school. Also, instruction time is critical, and it matters a lot when kids miss school, are late or leave early. Every minute matters.”

Important observations with which I’m sure other principals would agree. As I left Delk’s office, I noticed a great quote carved in stone that sits atop her desk in perfect line of sight.

“Don’t measure the size of the mountain, talk to the one who can move it.”

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at