Ruether principal named a state ‘Principal of the Year’

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published August 13, 2014

Reuther MIddle School Principal Cheryl Gambaro was recently named Michigan’s 2013-14 Middle School Principal of the Year.

ROCHESTER — Reuther Middle School Principal Susan Gambaro admits she was initially a bit perturbed at being called out of a school assembly for a phone call, but once she heard the news on the other end of the line, it all made sense.

The call was from the director of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, who informed Gambaro that she had been named the 2013-14 Middle School Principal of the Year.

“I was totally dumbfounded and in shock,” Gambaro said. “I teared up, I turned around, and my secretary, my assistant principal and a couple teachers were standing outside with their face against the glass of the door. Then, when I walked out, there were a bunch of people out there celebrating. It was just really moving and touching. I had no clue. I was just winding up the end of the school year and it was crazy busy, like it normally is, so it was just a beautiful, pleasant surprise.”

Gambaro was nominated for the award by Reuther staff — including Assistant Principal Eric Williams, and teachers Melina Chynoweth, Deanna Knox and Jari Pathenos — along with Reuther student Julia Couch and a school parent, Nancy Benedettini.

Williams said he nominated Gambaro for Principal of the Year because of her unwavering  commitment and vision for Reuther  Middle School. 

“She is the ultimate example of a team player, focused on the belief that together everyone can achieve more. Ms. Gambaro has been able to build a leadership team that includes a majority of her staff, each dedicated to a particular goal towards school improvement. Cheryl is passionate, motivated, inspirational, determined, caring and leads by example, were a few comments our staff used to describe Ms. Gambaro,” he said.

Williams said Reuther Middle School is a warm and inviting place to learn and grow, which he said is a direct result of the school’s leadership.

“Throughout the day, Ms. Gambaro can be found conversing with students in the halls, encouraging teachers to try a new technique, and establishing positive public relations with the community,” he said.

Benedettini said she cannot say enough good things about Gambaro.

“She is just an amazing person, an amazing principal. She is so hardworking and dedicated, and she just brings out the best in everyone — the students, the parents, the staff and everybody that works around her and with her,” she said.

The nomination said Gambaro has “passionately worked to aid struggling students and advocate for those who are underrepresented or are typically marginalized.” Under her watch, they say, Reuther became “the host of the only middle school intervention program in the district staffed by a full-time interventionist.” Through this work, they say, Gambaro has been able to “collect meaningful data and monitor her students’ needs, allowing her to create true change in her building.”

Gambaro accepted the award in front of family, friends and colleagues at MASSP’s annual conference at the end of June in Traverse City. During the ceremony, she received a crystal plaque commemorating the honor and a Principal of the Year ring designed by Jostens.

“It always feels good when your staff respects you enough and feels like what you’re doing is worthy of letting other people, and the state, know about it. It makes me feel like they feel good about what is going on, obviously, and the direction that we are moving. … It was awesome,” she said.

Gambaro is starting her seventh year as principal at Reuther within the Rochester Community Schools district and said she loves the fact that her job is different every day.

“Sometimes that’s bad and sometimes it’s good, but mostly it’s good,” she said.

She is also happy to serve as a “servant leader” because she knows that supporting her “phenomenal staff” is going to make a huge difference in the classroom.

“It makes your job easy because you know everything you’re putting into it is going to go on forever. If you help one teacher be that much more as a teacher, that’s 25 years that they are going to be affecting kids. There’s longlasting effects to everything that you do, if you do it right. We don’t always do it right, but we try really hard to do it right,” she said. “I could leave Reuther tomorrow, but I would know that — hopefully — good things are happening because you have this amazing teaching staff that has learned and grown and became even better at their craft.”