Hazelwood's 'Fab Four': What It Takes to Be a Leader in Your Thirties

The four Hazelwood School District employees named in the NCI 30 Leaders in their Thirties Awards include an Early Childhood Education director, a counselor, an assistant principal and a principal. Find out what makes them great leaders.

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Elena Amirault, director of the District’s program; Nyron Edwards, an assistant principal at ; Andrew Harris, counselor at ; and Dr. Jennifer Roper, McNair’s principal, will receive awards at a NCI reception on September 21 at 11:30 a.m. at the Norwood Hills Country Club.

Every year, NCI recognizes a group of professionals and volunteers between the ages of 30 and 39, all of whom make a considerable difference in North County.

“North County has some amazingly talented young business, civic and community leaders who are excelling in their professions, as well as volunteering for area civic and charitable organizations. Through their work and volunteerism, they are making a positive difference in our community. NCI Salutes 30 Leaders in their Thirties is our way of saying ‘thanks for your contributions’,” said Rebecca Zoll, NCI’s president and CEO.

“I was honored to have been nominated by HSD and grateful to North County Incorporated for choosing to recognize me—such an unexpected moment,” said Roper.

“I was surprised when I received the notification letter that I had been chosen,” said Harris “It’s an honor to represent McNair alongside Dr. Roper. It’s also an honor to represent the school counseling profession, having an opportunity to promote the important work we are doing.”

“It always feels good to be recognized for hard work and dedication,” said Amirault.

“I felt honored yet humble,” said Edwards. “I absolutely appreciate anyone willing to recognize the work that any educator does.”

HSD honorees described what makes a good leader.

“A good leader possesses compassion, integrity, dedication and passion for their vocation,” said Roper. “When working with students, parents, staff and community members, a school leader must be able to see the many perspectives around her to make informed decisions and always do what is in the best interest of children.   

“A leader shows interest and value in others, carefully considering the effect one’s own actions will have on shaping the team,” said Harris. “A leader stays positive, celebrates effort and creative spirit, while promoting healthy boundaries. Having a sense of humor helps, too.”

“A good leader values the importance of people and takes time to build relationships, has the ability to step back and look at the big picture in how a system operates (to play chess rather than checkers) and inspires and encourages others to become good leaders,” said Amirault.

“I believe that good leaders have the ability to see a destination, see where his or her people are, plot out a route to the destination and inspire the people to reach that destination,” said Edwards. “I believe good leaders have the following characteristics – vision, assessment, planning, communication, inspiration and collaboration.”

The honorees explained their educational philosophies.

“I believe that all students have gifts and talents that make them unique,” said Roper. “As an educator, it is my job to help students discover those gifts and encourage their self-esteem. Today’s world poses many hardships for children and it is important that students find a safe, welcoming place where they can ask questions, discover new ideas and challenge their thinking. As educators, that is what we do for our students—we create that place for them. I have been blessed throughout my life with the support of teachers, mentors, family and friends who have integrity and strong character. It is my goal to create that same influence for the students with whom I work. 

“My educational philosophy is simple; give every child every opportunity to be better than the previous generation,” said Edwards. “I want them to take the baton and learn from us, so that they can be better than us; go farther in the race than we could go. I’d like to thank all the good educators who taught me in HSD.  I’d like to especially thank the great ones who deposited something into my life - Susan Eckert, Harrold McNeil, Doris Cameron, Pat Ginn and Jan Geisleman. These were teachers, counselors and principals who pushed me and would not let up until they saw me realize the full potential they saw in me. I feel as if I owe my current students that which was given to me.”

“All children have unique strengths, interests and learning styles,” said Amirault. “Our lessons and interactions should reflect the individual students in our care. The interactions and learning experiences we give our children can have a profound, life-changing impact on which they become. The key to success begins with building positives, nurturing relationship with students and their families. Education must evolve beyond memorizing facts and teach students how to think, question, problem-solve and collaborate in a diverse society.”

“I believe every child is a unique, valuable person, with individual strengths and weaknesses,” said Harris.  “With thoughtful teaching and nurturing relationships, a child can realize his or her full potential and succeed far beyond anyone’s expectations.”

North County Incorporated is a regional development organization which acts as a catalyst to define and advocate economic and community development for North St. Louis County. NCI was established in 1977. The board is composed of community leaders and business owners. Sandy Weber, vice president and district manager for U.S. Bank, is North County Inc.’s 2012 Board Chair.


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