Tara Whitehead has been selected to be the new principal at Poinciana Elementary, according to Monroe County School District Superintendent Theresa Axford.

“I have watched Tara Whitehead in the classroom as a teacher and I could see her great talent and the deep level of understanding in the learning process she displayed,” Axford said in a news release. “I am very pleased to see her move into the principal role at Poinciana Elementary. Her love of students, her skills of positive behavior management, her willingness to invest time working and supporting teachers and her knowledge of classroom pedagogy will be an asset in this new role.”

Whitehead takes over the role from Larry Schmiegel, who earlier this year was chosen to become principal at Key West High School.

Whitehead earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Kent State University and her master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of North Florida. She began her teaching career in Jacksonville, Florida, where she taught third through fifth grade, and said she enjoyed watching her students’ eyes light up when they mastered their work.

In 2011, she relocated to Key West, Florida, and began working with the Monroe County School District as a substitute teacher. The next year, she joined the staff at Key West High School, where she taught Earth Space Science. During that time, she served as a Building Level Planning Team representative and the Professional Development contact. Her desire to support all stakeholders in the school community was a driving force in her making the move to the assistant principal role at Key West High School, where she was an integral part of moving the school forward. She made the transition to Poinciana Elementary assistant principal last year and said she is honored to have been selected for the principal leadership position.

“Tara is an upbeat person who always has a positive outlook on things,” said Robin Black, a Poinciana first-grade teacher, Robin Black. “One of the things I admire most is the way she makes everyone feel valued and respected. I’m looking forward to a great year with her as principal.”

As a member of the Key West community, Whitehead said she is committed to providing the best academic and social environment for the students at Poinciana.

“I believe in cultivating positive relationships with teachers, staff, parents and families to increase the support and academic achievement for our students,” Whitehead said. “My passion and beliefs for a quality and equitable education for all students will be a driving force to continue the success at Poinciana Elementary.”