For­est Trails prin­ci­pal ‘came back home’

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Suzanne Ma­jors Davis West­lake Picayune con­tribut­ing writer

It has been a nos­tal­gic jour­ney for Cody Spraberry.

In the fall, he re­turned to For­est Trail El­e­men­tary School, where he got early ex­pe­ri­ence as a teacher. Now he’s the prin­ci­pal.

Spraberry, 37, taught fourth grade there for six years, left to be­come an as­sis­tant prin­ci­pal at Hill El­e­men­tary School in Austin for two years, then “came back home” to re­place Charles McCasland, who retired af­ter 23 years at the school.

“When the po­si­tion opened up, I was real ex­cited about it,” Spraberry said. “It was a real joy to come back to fam­i­lies that I know.”

He went into teach­ing “be­cause I’ve al­ways liked work­ing with kids. I thought it was go­ing to be on the coach­ing side ... but that in­volves a lot of mov­ing, and time away from your own fam­ily.”

Tu­tor­ing his cousin’s chil­dren in­spired Spraberry to study el­e­men­tary ed­u­ca­tion.

“Once I started my course­work at Hardin-Sim­mons (Univer­sity), I knew it was the right choice,” Spraberry said.

He grad­u­ated with a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in be­hav­ioral sci­ence and a mi­nor in read­ing. Later he re­ceived his master’s of ed­u­ca­tion from the Univer­sity of Texas-Ar­ling­ton in ed­u­ca­tional lead­er­ship and pol­icy.

Spraberry’s wife brought him to Austin. She was in school at the Univer­sity of Texas when they met, so he vis­ited al­most ev­ery week­end and fell in love with the city.

“It was the most at home I’ve ever felt, so I thought when­ever I had the chance to move here, I’d do it.” Spraberry said. He al­ways planned to be a prin­ci­pal. “In the in­ter­view... I told him (McCasland) I wanted to be a prin­ci­pal, so he en­cour­aged me,” Spraberry re­called.

McCasland al­lowed him to step out of the class­room when he had a stu­dent teacher, let­ting him achieve goals for his master’s pro­gram, like run a fire drill, run an assem­bly and at­tend dif­fer­ent kinds of meet­ings.

Spraberry’s fa­vorite part of the job is spend­ing time with the kids.

“I try to get into the class­rooms as much as I can,” he said. “I read to all the kinder­garten classes the first week of school, and I’ve subbed when teach­ers needed cov­er­age. See­ing from a bird’seye per­spec­tive, how the teach­ers need to reach all the kids is pretty im­pres­sive.”

Spraberry loves to in­ter­act with stu­dents. Some­times he dons a T-Rex di­nosaur cos­tume and plays soc­cer with them on the play­ground.

“Our kids are truly spe­cial and our teach­ers are amaz­ingly ded­i­cated,” Spraberry said. “I be­lieve that when a kid knows you love them, and you’re there for them, they can out­per­form ex­pec­ta­tions you or they have for them­selves. We’re build­ing hu­mans, and aca­demics come with it.”

One of Spraberry’ goals is to in­crease the in­volve­ment of fa­thers. He wants more of them to vol­un­teer as guest readers and in other ca­pac­i­ties.

“My stu­dents are lucky that most have dads at home,” he said. “Var­i­ous stud­ies show that chil­dren do bet­ter if dads read to them.”

An over­all goal is to pro­mote prob­lem-solv­ing skills and mold well-rounded, good peo­ple.

“I also don’t want to lose sight that kids just need to be kids,” Spraberry said.


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