Ask Dr. John Giancola to describe Rowan Elementary and he’ll tell you what he’s forever telling his staff and students, that it’s the greatest school on the planet.
And he’s confident that it will remain that way—even though he’s leaving it.
“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “I loved my time here.”
Giancola, who has been principal at the school since 2006, has accepted a position as an English as a Second Language supervisor at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. His last day with the Seneca Valley School District is Dec. 3.
Although emotional about leaving Rowan (he describes the staff and parents as “family”), Giancola said the new position allows him to return to one of his first loves—teaching literacy.
“Reading is my biggest love,” he said. “To just focus on literacy all the time is really intriguing.”
A Zelienople native and Seneca Valley High School alumni, Giancola returned to the district in 2001 as an assistant principal at Haine and Connoquenessing Valley elementary schools before becoming principal at Rowan. Prior to that, he taught at the Armstrong and Woodland Hills school districts.
After graduating from Slippery Rock University in 1989, Giancola initially began his education career as a high school social studies teacher. Following a round of layoffs, however, Giancola was moved to the elementary level, where he taught kindergarten and first graders.
Nervous at first at educating younger children, Giancola soon found he had a gift for interacting with elementary students.
“I just loved it,” he said. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is really my forte.’”
During his rein at Rowan, Giancola—who earned his doctorate in educational leadership from Duquesne University in 2009—said he has seen an incredible rise in the school’s state reading and math scores. The married father of two, who lives in Sarver, also takes pride in the school’s efforts to include all children—including those with severe disabilities—into the classrooms.
“I think kids need to be with their peers,” he said. “It’s really beautiful to see all the kids interacting together.”
Since he announced he was leaving the district, Giancola said there has been an outpouring of love from the community, including a parent who called him in tears. The students, who recently sang to him on his 50th birthday, also have been begging him not to go.
It’s the youngsters who Giancola said he would miss the most.
“The staff and the parents, too, but the kids the most,” he said.
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