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Coming Home: How One Principal is Paying it Forward and Supporting Elementary Students
Posted 11/9/21

Nestled in the hills just east of downtown Napa is Alta Heights Elementary School with its new principal who is passionate about making students feel seen and known.


The new principal of Alta Heights, Ted Ward, is a product of the Napa Valley Unified School District. In fact, when he was a senior at Vintage High School he volunteered in a third-grade classroom, which he said was “ an aha moment for me...I really liked working with younger kids. I felt a value and a sense of connection in that volunteer service.” 


Now, as the Principal of Alta Heights, Ted wants all of his students to feel like they are seen and known. To make this happen he committed to learning every returning student’s name, about 285 in total, within the first two months of the school year. This focus on seeing and knowing kids hasn’t gone unnoticed. According to Whitney Farris, current parent and former Family Faculty Club (FFC) president and treasurer, “ Ted is doing amazing work. He makes a huge effort to get to know the kids and you can tell...the kids love him!”  

Alta Heights Elementary School

Thinking about the first months of the 2021 school year, Ted is impressed with the hard work of his teachers. He especially praised them for the high quality of their grade level Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) -- a group of grade-level teachers who study student data to use in planning lessons and to reinforce content and skills. He noted that careful, advanced, planning like this “ helps teachers know their students and to really see their strengths and weaknesses, allowing for individual student attention in class.” Coming off of a year of hybrid learning, Ward believes that this level of attention will be necessary to help all students “get what they need in order to make at least one year’s growth in one year's time.”


Alta Heights doesn’t just have great teaching that leads to individual attention. The school also has programs such as their “ class buddy program” where 5th-grade students meet weekly with their 1st-grade buddies to build community. They also provide a strong leadership club for 4th and 5th grade. Not to mention the garden program that gives students the opportunity to learn and connect with each other in the beautiful, natural environment of the eastern hills of Napa. 


Ted also praised the value of their strong Family Faculty Club (FFC) that creates spaces for community and opportunities for student enrichment. In the past, the FFC has organized annual community-building events such as their Harvest Festival, Festive Winter Celebrations, and a May Fiesta. However, he is most excited about FFCs plans to relaunch its after-school extracurricular experiences, including classes such as gardening, cooking, art, science, technology, engineering, and math. Farris was also very proud of the in-school programs the FFC has sponsored over the years such as the arts curriculum Meet the Masters where students study a famous artist and then reproduce one of their great works.


If you are interested in learning more about Alta Heights, visit their website to schedule a tour of their campus, or visit the Enrollment page to learn how to register.