Dr. Retzlaff – Principal with a Purpose

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Retirement was short lived for Dr. Pamela Retzlaff. Just a year into being retired, she was doing some consulting work when she ran into a Biome School board member who told her about the school, its mission and an opportunity for a new principal. A short time later, Dr. Retzlaff drove by the school to check it out and her retirement was history.

As she learned more, Dr. Retzlaff was convinced that The Biome School was a place where students, teachers, parents, administrators, and others could come together and have a positive impact on a quality education. Today she knows her instincts were correct.

Dr. Retzlaff joined the Biome School as principal at the end of January 2017, bringing with her 36 years of experience in private and public schools, including 18 years with the Webster Groves School District and seven years with Kirkwood School District. One of the things she observed from her first interview was the close relationship that existed between everyone involved with the school.

As principal, Dr. Retzlaff is the instructional leader for the school and responsible for providing whatever is necessary to enable children to learn. In reality, this means she not only makes sure that children have access to the right educational resources for learning and teachers have the best opportunities for professional development, she also makes sure that the school building is clean and well-maintained and that there is ongoing and open communications with parents, the school community and other stakeholders.

True to the school’s mission of creating out of classroom learning experiences for students, Dr. Retzlaff has arranged a variety of opportunities for students. Examples include regular visits to the nearby branch of St. Louis Public Library, field trips to the Link Auditorium in the CWE to listen to storyteller extraordinaire, Bobby Norfolk, and an on-site study program in collaboration with the St. Louis Zoo, as well as in-school visits by the Opera Theatre of St. Louis and other organizations.

As Dr. Retzlaff explains, there isn’t anything she won’t do for the school, whether it’s helping to setup and supervise lunch time or calling a meeting with staff to discuss how to minimize the amount of mud on the shoes of children that comes into the building from the playground, requiring a disproportionate amount of time and energy to clean up. She also has initiated literacy mornings for parents to spend a half-hour reading to their children before school and parent workshops to support children’s learning.

She particularly enjoys being around the children. Just recently, she had an impromptu discussion with a group of first graders that focused on how her earrings, necklace, and hairstyle reminded the students of their grandmothers. Dr. Retzlaff turned the discussion into a teachable moment by explaining how people of similar ages often seem to dress the same and like the same kinds of music, regardless of where they live or what kind of work they do.

With a background in the arts, Dr. Retzlaff’s educational philosophy is aligned with the school’s STEAM curriculum in terms of believing in a team approach to problem-solving. In addition to earning a Doctor of Educational Administration degree from St. Louis University and Master of Science in Education, degree in Supervision and Administration from Bank Street College, Parsons School of Design in New York, NY, she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Art with a minor in Education from Cardinal Stritch University, Fox Point, WI. She is certified by the state of Missouri as a superintendent, principal for K-8, and art educator.

In her spare time, Dr. Retzlaff hardly takes it easy. Instead, she enjoys being a spinning instructor at the Kirkwood and Brentwood YMCA and Webster Groves Recreation Center, as well as lifting weights and being a Les Mills BodyPump™ coach. She also has a passion for gardening and spending time with her grandchildren.

While there are many reasons why Dr. Retzlaff is thrilled to be principal of the Biome School, one of the things she enjoys the most is being part of a close-knit family of students, teachers, staff and administrators. Compared to the large public school districts she came from, the small, intimate Biome School community is a refreshing change of pace where everyone cares about one another and everyone is focused on the same dream and vision for every student in the school.