At every school, the principal must represent the core values, mission, and community of the school’s environment. At Oak Hill Academy, Mr. Todd Giszack does exactly that.
We caught up with Mr. Giszack to find out what he loves about being the principal at OHA.
What is your favorite part about working at OHA?
I love the students. Their stories, their goals, and their growth. The students are definitely my favorite part of my being here.
Describe a rewarding moment with a student.
My most rewarding moments come in the form of everyday conversations with students. We had a student recently who didn’t do as well as she had hoped on an assignment. After listening to her side of the story, we talked about opportunities for growth in the areas of self-advocacy and responsibility. I felt so confident in the student’s ability and in the teacher’s responsiveness that I issued a challenge for the student to professionally approach their teacher about their grade, and sit with them to discuss how to earn a better grade the next time.
The student not only moved beyond the immediate challenge to develop skills in the area of self advocacy, but also went on to improve their grade.
If you could describe OHA in one word, what would it be?
“Community”. The sort of communication and growth I described above is just one example of the social-emotional learning that takes place daily at OHA. This relational approach is one of our defining features, and is a key to both our success and our students’ success.
Describe a moment you knew the OHA community was special.
A few weeks into my first year here, we held a ‘staffing’ for a student. I had no idea what a ‘staffing’ was, but quickly learned it was a group meeting where every adult associated with a student—teachers, coaches, resident managers, and counselor—got together and discussed ways to help that student be successful. I looked around that first staffing and was amazed that we had 9 adults spending an hour together discussing how best to help a single student. It was at that moment I realized OHA was truly a special place.
Mr. Giszack has a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Virginia Tech, and a Master of Science in Education from Radford University with an emphasis on curriculum design and instruction. This explains why he is so passionate about establishing college partnerships and developing Oak Hill’s Environmental Literacy Initiative.
His relationship with Oak Hill Academy started long before becoming the principal. Because of his previous role at another boarding school, he had already been familiar with the mission and community of Oak Hill Academy. During that time, he worked alongside Dr. Groves on several projects for the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS), and felt very aligned with his vision and philosophy of education. When the former principal of OHA retired, Mr. Giszack knew the time was right to experience life at a small by design, coeducational boarding school.
We’re proud to have Mr. Giszack represent our values and mission of inspiring success, personal growth, and community.