FOSTORIA - As principal of Field Elementary School, Pamela Van Mooy says, "My chief role is cheerleader and supporter."
Sometimes that's literally true. While waiting to dismiss a group of second and third graders to their bus home one afternoon, Mrs. Van Mooy shifted seamlessly from administrator to entertainer.
"Maybe we should sing our Ohio song," she told the 20 restless youngsters sitting in a hallway next to her office.
"Nooooooo," the children replied in unison.
Undeterred, she tried another tack.
"Let's do 'Doubled Up,'●" Mrs. Van Mooy said, suggesting a chant in which the children flip their thumbs and palms up and down, in and out. "Get your thumbs ready."
Eagerly, the students joined in, repeating the words in ever-faster rhythms. "Double double this this, double double that that! Double this, double that, double double this, that!"
Laughing and smiling, the children stood up and followed their teachers outside to the waiting bus.
"They've sat all day, and they're tired of being quiet, so you have to do something with them," the principal said.
According to a statewide educators' group, Mrs. Van Mooy is doing the right things with the 290 students at her school. She's been named the state's Elementary Distinguished Principal by the Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators, besting hundreds of other school leaders.
The association also honored Larry Case of Pfeiffer Middle School in the Perry Local School District as the state's Middle School Distinguished Principal.
"These are the best of the best," said Ronald Stebelton, executive director of the association. "They're wonderful. We have wonderful principals all over the state of Ohio, and we happen to be honoring these two. They have demonstrated the leadership that moves schools forward."
The two winners will receive their state awards at a conference in Columbus in late October, to be followed by a visit to Washington to receive a National Distinguished Principal Award from the U.S. Department of Education and the National Associaition of Elementary School Principals.
Mrs. Van Mooy was nominated for the state award by Ben Pohlman, a member of the Fostoria Board of Education who formerly taught at Fostoria High School for 29 years.
"She just has so much enthusiasm, and I'd like to attribute that to her being an ex-cheerleader," he said. "She just brings so much energy to school assemblies. The other teachers in her building really admire her, and she really works well with them."
Mrs. Van Mooy, 53, has been a principal and teacher for 32 years, all of them in Fostoria City Schools. She is in her second year as principal of Field Elementary, a school for second and third-grade students.
She previously was principal of the former Lowell Elementary School, which closed in June, 2002, and also had a prior stint as principal at Field when that building was a prekindergarten through fifth-grade school.
She also has taught third and fifth-grade students at Field, Riley, and Longfellow schools.
Her current position, she said, is her favorite.
"This is the best job in town," she said. "Second and third-graders are able to do something. They have some skills. They're able to write. They're able to read. But they're also excited about learning. They're inquisitive and love to explore, so you get very little attitude."
Mrs. Van Mooy said she believes her job is to make learning fun for students, encourage parents to get involved at school, and help teachers do their jobs.
At Lowell Elementary, she once conducted a "pep rally" for fourth-graders preparing for the state proficiency tests and came dressed as "the world's oldest cheerleader" in a white sweater and skirt and pushing a walker in front of her.
"I want students to think back on the time we've spent together as pleasant," she said.
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