Scott Saperstein and Kristen Schaefer are both first-timers at their jobs as the new school year begins. He is the new principal at Virginia Boone-Highland Oaks Elementary School in northeast Miami-Dade County, while Schaefer has begun teaching at Renaissance Charter School in Cooper City.
“Good morning Mr. Saperstein!” shouts the kindergarten class in unison.
It’s the first week on the job for first-time Principal Scott Saperstein. He's making the rounds at Virginia Boone-Highland Oaks Elementary School in northeast Miami-Dade County.
“It’s an invigorating environment with the kids, the energy they have,” Saperstein said. "It's been very exciting."
Saperstein takes over a school with a long tradition of "A" grades under former principal Kim Rubin, who retired after many years of service. A reporter asked him if the job, so far, is what he expected it to be.
“No, because I think every day is different, every day’s a new day," Saperstein said. "You never know what to expect and you have to be very flexible.”
Saperstein may be a rookie in the principal's chair, but he's been an educator for years, so he knows how schools operate. Kristen Schaefer's fresh out of college, in charge of a class for the first time.
“Think about your favorite place, now explain why this is your favorite place,” Schaefer tells her 22 students as they discuss a writing assignment.
Schaefer graduated from Cooper City High just four years ago. Now she’s teaching fourth-graders at Renaissance Charter School down the street.
“I am excited, and the kids are excited as well, they know it’s my first year but they don’t treat me as that, they respect me as if I’d been teaching 10 years, 20 years," Schaefer said.
Schaefer looks like a high school student, and says she uses her youth to her advantage.
"I think it helps a lot, the kids can relate to me like I'm an older sister," Schaefer said.
The school year is just in its infancy, but Schaefer said she can already tell she made the right career choice, saying she loves teaching.
"It's actually exceeding my expectations," she said.
Whether he’s checking up on a class of fifth-graders or kindergartners, Saperstein thinks one key to success as a school principal is to be visible.
“I remember my principal to be a little on the mean side and not approachable,” Saperstein said. “I want to do the opposite, I want to make sure the kids know I’m friendly, warm, they can speak with me at any time.”
Saperstein says he hasn't been getting much sleep lately. He's weighing his new responsibilities, educating 700 kids while ensuring their safety, but loving every minute of it.
"You have to feel as though they're your own kids, you have to make sure you're watching over them as their parents would," he said.