Noozhawk: Isla Vista Elementary Principal Mary Kahn Looks to Build on School’s Successes

The following news article was was written by Noozhawk intern Nikki Chan, She can be reached at  This article reprinted here by permission. The original article can be viewed by clicking here.

Veteran educator values community partnerships and STEM curriculum in taking the helm at California Distinguished School

Isla Vista Elementary School Principal Mary Kahn joins the Goleta Union School District after working as an administrative designee at Washington Elementary for the past five years and previously as a teacher at Harding Elementary.

“Public education, private education — it’s just really about providing a whole child, whole family experience for supporting kids to achieve their highest potential — socially, emotionally and academically,” she said.

Kahn, a teacher with 15 years of experience, started her career in bilingual education and has taught seventh, sixth, fifth, fourth and third grades and kindergarten.

A Goleta native and parent of children enrolled in Goleta schools, Kahn said she was attracted to the diversity and community partnerships at Isla Vista Elementary.

“I thought this would be a really good match for me because of the diversity and partnerships in the community with the university and extensions to after school [programs],” Kahn said. “All the components seemed like a great match for me.”

Along with focusing on statewide implementation of the common core standards, Kahn said she wants to learn more about the school to identify possible areas needing improvement.

“This year, my goal is to support the students, staff and families to maintain and promote Isla Vista school to support all of the goals and achievements they have already done,” Kahn said, noting the school’s recent achievement as a California Distinguished School. “[This year is] about me learning what IV is about and helping support programs that are continually in place, build upon and move forward.”

She said the school will implement programs emphasizing science, technology, engineering and math areas to expose students to multiple interest and career paths. Kahn said she wants the school to be aligned with Goleta junior high and high schools, such as the school’s growing robotics program that will pair students with engineering students from Dos Pueblos High School this year. UCSB students will also work with Isla Vista Elementary students through these programs, and through playground activities.

The school will also offer clubs at lunchtime for upper-grade students and more after-school enrichment programs for students to explore new areas of interest.

“What’s happening already is of high caliber and excellent — we’re not taking away what we have, we will identify how we can add to or modify what is working and where we can move forward to make it even better,” she said. “I’m really counting on working with families and staff in identifying areas of need through student success and areas of need.”

Kahn said the new emphasis on technology in the classroom will involve lessons for children and increased integration of technology on a daily basis.

Additional ongoing professional development with current staff to integrate common core standards into curriculum will also take place this year, she said.

“It is unique here that there is so many languages spoken — we have 27 cultures represented at IV school,” she said. “It’s a difference that we think is an asset.”

The school continuously works to build a community through its different programs catered to families. According to Kahn, the school’s library is open from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays for families to check books out together, and the school holds a partnership with UCSB — Viva el Arte — that brings performing arts and professional concerts to Isla Vista Elementary.

Kahn received bachelor degrees in liberal studies and Spanish from San Diego State University, a teaching degree and master’s degree in education from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and a special-education learning handicap credential and reading specialist credential and her administrative experience from Fielding Graduate University.

“Both Harding and Washington were fabulous schools that were highly dedicated, and I’m coming into another staff that is amazingly dedicated and open to improving their own practice,” she said. “I have a great level of expectation of staff and what families can expect, and I see that happening already here. IV is a great community.”