Home Education and Careers New principal Katie Eissler Thiel embraces Archmere Academy’s community atmosphere, rigorous academics

New principal Katie Eissler Thiel embraces Archmere Academy’s community atmosphere, rigorous academics

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Katie Eissler Thiel is the new principal at Archmere Academy, where she has been a French teacher.

CLAYMONT — At the beginning of Katie Eissler Thiel’s career in education, being an administrator was not necessarily on her bucket list. A stint as a teacher in a large public high school did nothing to change that sentiment. But when the principal’s position became vacant at Archmere Academy, Eissler Thiel had a change of heart.

“I would not want to be an administrator at a big public high school, but there was something about administration here at Archmere. It’s a little bit more personal. You still have your foot in the classroom, which is so nice,” she said recently in her new office.

Eissler Thiel has been a French teacher at Archmere for six years. She’ll still keep her foot in the classroom, leading an advanced-placement French class. She grew up in Philadelphia and Bucks County, Pa., and a friend of hers from Gettysburg College, where she earned her bachelor’s degree, alerted her to the teaching vacancy that led her to Claymont. That friend happened to be an Archmere graduate.

“The way that she talked about her high school experience, it sounded a lot more like a collegiate experience,” Eissler Thiel said. “When the job opened up here, she had sent it to me … I was attracted to the opportunity because it’s a more challenging environment. Since I thought I wanted to be a college professor, I really wanted to teach the upper-level courses, but I knew I probably wouldn’t have that opportunity at that big public high school.”

The smaller atmosphere at Archmere compared with her previous job at the large public school has allowed her to be more engaged with her students and her colleagues. She likes the close-knit environment and the community feel.

During her tenure in Claymont, Eissler Thiel co-coordinated the French exchange program, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary with the same school in France. Last year, she helped the school start a podcast, but it was put on hold after just a few episodes because of the coronavirus. She was the chairperson of the world language department and was also involved with the National Honor Society as well.

In addition, Eissler Thiel helped with admissions. She said that was a good stepping stone for the principal’s job “because I got a chance to interface with families a lot more, prospective students. I feel like it gave me a little bit more of a leg up in talking about the school to the greater public, which is something I’ll have to do here.”

Eissler Thiel said Archmere is in a strong position as far as enrollment is concerned. The school’s reputation was helped by what it did last spring, when classes were forced online. She is excited by what the school has to offer.

“People come to Archmere for the individualized attention. They know that the class sizes are going to be small. I feel it’s a place that has something for everyone. You can be both a musician and an athlete. You can be in community service and serve your team in an athletic sense,” she said.

She is proud of the school’s ability to provide financial aid, which has increased the “diversity and equity” on campus. That is a key area of attention in her first year. Archmere has hired an alumna to serve as the director of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Eissler Thiel said she is passionate about pedagogy and good teaching. She wants to revamp the way teacher observations are done, although that is not likely to happen this year as classes look different than normal.

“I’d really like to take an in-depth look at sort of how we observe teachers, how we set growth benchmarks, and how we can make positive progress together. It’s not a gotcha moment to me, the principal coming into the classroom. It’s about fostering growth together, and I’m a really positive, optimistic person,” she said.

After Gettysburg, Eissler Thiel earned her master’s degree from the University of Delaware in French language and literature. She and her husband, John, recently moved to Media, Pa. She likes to be outdoors, running and bicycling, and the couple enjoy going to concerts, which is something she has missed during the pandemic.

“It was the first thing to go, and it will probably be the last thing to come back. We love seeing live music.”