As students make their way through the halls of Cougar Elementary in their first days of school this week, assistant principal Katrina Saunders is walking the halls for her last.
After five full years at Cougar and with the graduation of her only child from high school, Saunders said she is at a turning point in her life, and has decided to move with her husband to Mexico Beach a town of about 1,000 people on the Florida panhandle.
“It’s the size of Cougar every day,” Saunders said, laughing. “We have 900 students and about 100 adults. We’re young and it’s time to do it. You never know what will happen in your life. I never want to wake up and say, ‘Oh I should have done that.’”
Moving to Florida was one of the things she and her husband, Steve, always said they wanted to do, he because of the slower pace and she because she is always cold, Saunders said.
Saunders, whose last day at Cougar is Sept. 14, said she would like to return to the classroom and put into practice what she has learned over the years from some of the great teachers she’s worked with.
After eight years at the administrative level, Saunders said she’s had a lot of time to watch other teachers.
“I’ll say, ‘Oh that’s a good idea!’ and file away. I do a lot of mental stealing,” she said. “There’s a lot of things that I see and say, ‘Oh I wish I could have done that in my classroom.’”
She loves being an administrator because she likes solving problems, but teaching is her first love, Saunders said.
But wherever she ends up working, she’ll miss Manassas Park, she said.
“Me and (principal Pam) Terry just clicked. We have fun,” Saunders said.
She loves the closeness and the dedication of the staff members in the school district. Superintendent Dr. Bruce McDade comes to the school a few times a week and directs bus traffic, she said.
“The students think the superintendent is the bus man,” she added, laughing.“ … I have to say, this has been one of the best places, I’ve ever worked. I love Cougar, I love Manassas Park … the small town atmosphere reminds me of growing up in Front Royal. It’s nice to know the families that come through; that's how it was with my family, they’ll say, ‘Oh you’re one of the Cook kids.’”
Saunders, who is one of seven brothers and sisters, all from the Front Royal area, said it will be her family who will look after her daughter, Kathryn, who is attending James Madison University while she is in Florida.
Her daughter is very independent, Saunders said. That and the fact she, too, attended JMU puts her at ease about being in Florida while her daughter is in college.
Donald Frischkorn is the new assistant principal at Cougar Elementary School.
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