Women in Science: Kelly Leovic, Principal for a Day

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Kelly Leovic

EPA employees in Research Triangle Park, NC love sharing their expertise and enthusiasm for the environment and STEM (science, technology, engineering, & math). Last year, nearly 200 of EPA-RTP’s 1,400 employees spent nearly 3,000 hours reaching over 38,000 participants at 203 events, including K-12 classroom presentations, career days, festivals, student mentoring and campus tours.

As part of our community outreach, we participate on the Durham Public Schools Business Advisory Council (BAC), which builds long-term partnerships between businesses and schools. On February 8, the BAC launched its Principal for a Day Program — sending business leaders and elected officials into the schools.

I was excited, yet a bit nervous. Shaneeka Moore-Lawrence, the energetic Principal at Bethesda Elementary handed me her walkie-talkie as we dashed from the car line to our shift at bus arrival. I sensed this was not going to be a shadowing experience, as my gracious host stepped back and left me in charge.

Next were the Pledge and Morning Announcements. If you look at this link, you see me in the pink shirt getting ready – note how much calmer the Principal appears.  After announcements, we visited most of the 31 classrooms at Bethesda. I tried to emulate Shaneeka’s positive behavior and classroom engagement, and my experience grew more rewarding the more involved I became.

Reading The Lorax to a 1st grade class was a highlight because it is my favorite children’s book and, now that my kids are older, I welcome the opportunity to share the sad, yet hopeful story with any audience. My most embarrassing moment was in music when I realized that the kids were going to notice if I lip-synced, so I sang along with the class. I was relieved that this was not included on the video!

I was truly humbled by being Principal for a Day and think that everyone should try it in order to experience the great things happening in our schools and understand the challenges that Principals are faced with, and all of the roles they play in running a successful school with a diverse population. I look forward to returning soon to do science activities and read EPA’s new air quality book, Why is Coco Orange?

I learned some valuable lessons in school on February 8, and encourage all EPA employees to take the initiative to become involved in our schools and inspire the next generation to protect human health and the environment.

About the author: Kelly Leovic manages EPA’s STEM & Environmental Outreach Program in Research Triangle Park and has worked for the EPA as an environmental engineer since 1987. She has three children, two in middle and one in high school, who were all very relieved that she was not assigned to their school.

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