It has been 31 years since Gillian Wegener’s last interview, which happened to be with Oakdale Joint Unified School District. That is, until earlier this year, when Wegener once again subjected herself to the question/answer session and secured the position as the new Assistant Superintendent Curriculum and Instruction.
“I was super nervous beforehand, as I’m sure anybody would be,” Wegener shared. “I just tried to breathe deeply and the interview went pretty well and here I am. I’m really, really excited to get to do this job and get to serve the teachers and the students of Oakdale. Really I see my job as serving the community and serving the schools, so that’s kind of the angle I’m coming with.”
For the 30 years leading up to this moment, the new assistant superintendent has worked serving students and teachers in a different capacity. She spent 22 years teaching at Oakdale Junior High and eight as an academic coach with Oakdale Joint Unified School District.
“I’ve wanted to be a teacher since high school. I have always loved reading, I have always loved writing, so being an English teacher seemed like a natural fit.”
Her tenure as academic coach began in 2013. During the course of the eight years, Wegener worked closely with new teachers, helping them adjust to the transition and get on their feet.
“There were two of us the first year, four of us the second year,” she said of the coaching corps. “Basically we are here to support the work of curriculum and instruction. Make sure that teachers have what they need as far as support in the classroom.”
Having done both, Wegener said both teacher and coach have their high points.
“I still miss the kids. I really miss my classroom, but I really liked working with adults,” Wegener explained. “I really like helping new teachers. I really like working with veteran teachers and learning all aspects of education.”
Stepping into her latest role with the school district on July 1, the assistant superintendent shared she’s learning like everyone else. Equipped with lots of questions, she’s grateful for the district support as well as support from other districts. In addition, she does a lot of reading and research.
“I came into this position on July 1 and it was pretty much like jumping into the lake,” Wegener stated. “There were parts I’m really familiar with and parts I’m not so familiar with. The transition is going well.”
The longtime educator noted she began thinking of one day pursuing this role about four years ago. A thought which prompted her to return to school to work on her Doctorate three years ago. She is now in her final year of completing that educational goal.
“For the most part, I really feel the curriculum we have in place is solid. We’re working on adopting curriculum for elementary science and for high school science for this year,” she said. “Even that curriculum is going to really empower our students to move into the world with an understanding of science. That’s what we’re really working toward.”
Wegener and her team have also been working hard on the Independent Study program to have the option available for the students for the start of the new school year.
“I’m really looking forward to just being able to have teachers back together, after the year when we could not meet as grade levels or as subject level teams,” she shared. “Especially as we recover from the pandemic year. That was of course hard for families, very hard on students and it was hard on teachers as well.”
And there are still COVID influences being felt.
“Masks at this point are still mandatory,” she continued, “but again anything can change. We are trying to listen to the concerns of the community and we are trying to move forward as intentionally and thoughtfully into a traditional model as we can. We’ll adjust as needed.”
As Wegener makes the adjustment from campus life and hours and gets settled into her South Third Avenue office, she shared it’s indeed a big, yet welcome change. When asked to describe herself in one word and why, she shared the following.
“In terms of this job, I am thorough,” she said. “I try to look at all angles of any situation. I try to be open minded to many perspectives. I try to make sure all our bases are covered, as we go into something like the new school year, independent study or a piloting program. We make sure we think about all the little issues, so we can move into whatever it is as smoothly as possible.”