‘Overwhelmed with gratitude:’ Esslinger embracing role as Spain Park principal

Published 1:30 pm Wednesday, August 24, 2022

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By EMILY SPARACINO | Special to the Reporter

HOOVER – Like the ninth graders at Spain Park High School, Dr. Amanda Esslinger started the 2022-2023 school year as a newcomer to the SPHS campus.

However, it hasn’t taken Esslinger long to settle into her new role as Spain Park’s principal.

“It has been a great start to the school year,” Esslinger said. “The administrative team worked really hard to get things ready for teachers and students to return. Once the teachers and students came back to campus, the real fun began.”

Esslinger has worked as an administrator for 10 years, including four years as a grade-level (ninth) administrator and six years as an administrator for curriculum, instruction and technology.

Prior to becoming an administrator, Esslinger taught 10th and 11th grade English.

She earned her undergraduate degree from Troy University, followed by her master’s, educational specialist and doctoral degrees from UAB.

The Scottsboro native described her first day as Spain Park’s principal as “awesome.”

“It has been a busy and wonderful couple of months since I got here,” Esslinger said. “The members of the faculty and staff who are on campus in the summer hosted a welcome breakfast for me. I was able to get moved into my office and get settled.”

Esslinger and the school’s administrative team worked through her transition plan, which included meetings with teachers and support staff, along with reviewing protocols and procedures.

“During our recent faculty meetings as well as grade level meetings with students, the administrative team shared our goals for the year, and we are using a very strategic and data-based approach to reach them,” Esslinger said. “Our goals are to keep our students safe, comfortable, ensure that our students are ready to learn, and to empower them to grow, learn and succeed.”

Esslinger said when former Spain Park principal Larry Giangrosso announced his retirement earlier this year, she knew she wanted to be considered for the position.

“Spain Park is a great school with a reputation of excellence across the state,” Esslinger said. “The opportunity to lead and work at a place like Spain Park doesn’t come open often. I am so thankful that Dr. Fowler and the Board felt that I was the best fit.”

As someone who has always wanted to be an educator, Esslinger leans on her past experiences to shape her approach to leadership as an administrator.

“I think it is important for me to remember what it was like to be a student, athlete and teacher so that I can lead and support everyone in the school,” she said. “As an administrator, I have been very fortunate to be able to be involved in most of the aspects of school, from discipline and attendance to construction, to curriculum and instruction to strategic planning.”

Esslinger also credits her mentors with providing help, support and guidance to her along the way.

“My high school track coach, who also happens to be my father-in-law, taught me the power of truly believing in myself and in others,” Esslinger said. “Dr. Bill Cleveland, Dr. Betty Winches and Dr. Zack Barnes taught me so much about leadership and school. I am also so grateful for Mr. John Montgomery and Dr. Dee Fowler for all that they have taught me. I can see a little bit of each of them in all of the decisions that I make.”

Esslinger and her husband of 17 years, Tom, have two sons, John, 14, and Will, 11, and two golden retrievers, Vedder and Chewie.

Her message to students and parents in the Spain Park community is an emphatic “Go Jags.”

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement to be a part of Spain Park,” she said. “I cannot wait to make this year and the years to come some of the best years yet.”