EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series about the schools in the Prosper ISD. Hopefully, the Prosper Times will be able to feature a different school each week.
Haley Stelly is in her first year as a principal at a school that’s been in operation not much longer. This is the third year since Light Farms Elementary opened its doors.
Stelly is up to the task. She’s exuberant and full of smiles and determined to know each of her 941 students by their first names.
She started out at Baker Elementary where she stayed for five years before becoming assistant principal at Rucker Elementary. She was in that position for four years before moving to the assistant principal position at Light Farms and this year, she is principal.
I came [to Prosper ISD] the year Baker opened and the growth has been unbelievable,” Stelly said. “And I’ve heard Dr. Watkins say several times we are just at the starting point.” Baker is where Stelly came to know Jana Thomson who currently holds a position as a school board trustee.
Thomson was Stelly’s principal at Baker and instrumental in encouraging her to get her Master’s degree. “When I first became a teacher, I had no intention of ever becoming a principal one day, and then I just had a lot of people along the way who really believed in me and saw things in me that I might not have even seen in myself,” she said. “They gave me opportunities for leadership. Jana Thomson is one of those and has always been a very big cheerleader for me.” Stelly added how much she enjoys seeing Thomson on the school board.
Stelly received her Master of Education degree in Educational Leadership from Dallas Baptist University in 2011 and served as the Assistant Principal at Rucker Elementary in Prosper ISD for four years.
When asked about the best feature of Light Farms, Stelly shines the light on her students and staff. “Our students are amazing and our teachers are outstanding. We recognize the great things kids do every month at our Rise and Shine.”
With all the many duties and things to do that require Stelly’s attention, she says her very favorite time of the day is first thing in the morning when she opens the car doors to help the students get out of their cars to start the day. “They are so excited to see us,” she said.
Wherever she goes in the school, students run up to their principal and hug her and she hugs them back and calls them by their first name. “I feel like a celebrity,” she said.
Stelly says she and her husband decided to move to Prosper once they started their family. They have a boy and a girl whom they want to be in Prosper schools.
Stelly has something in common with working mothers everywhere in that she feels challenged to find the right balance between school and home. “I want to be fully present here and fully present for my family,” she said.
Stelly also recognizes the growth in the district as exponential. “Navigating the growth that we face allows us to be really creative with the structures that we have,” she said. “Embracing our portable classrooms helps us manage our space well.” Light Farms has two teachers sharing a community room space which is pretty typical. “We have several schools doing it,” she said. “So those have been challenges, but that keeps it exciting, too.”
Stelly says she feels blessed to have the opportunity to serve students and live out her passion each day. I strive to positively impact the lives of children during their elementary educational journey.”
One of the shining stars at Light Farms is its library under the direction of Terry Harkey who says libraries are changing. “They are not just books anymore,” she said. “One time a month we do ‘Maker days in the Library’ so the kids get to come in and create with legos and other construction tools and also technologies.”
Harkey talked about last year’s second grade which was working on Fairy Tales and Folk Tales. “They had to build a functional and comfortable chair for one of our stuffed animals.” She described how the students broke into groups and worked in teams focusing on science, technology and engineering aspects.
“So, we are trying to incorporate what they are doing in the classroom back into what they are building or making in the library,” Harkey said. “Schools are changing but it’s really good for the kids because that’s what the job force is going to require them to do — to be able to work with others in the work force and be creative and think outside the box.” Light Farms students are getting a head start in that direction.
Joyce Godwin | Joyce@CedarbrookMedia.com