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Julie Greiman poses with Scholar Dala, the dala horse just outside Scandia Elementary School. Greiman has worked with the Forest Lake Area School District for 33 years, and will be retiring at the end of this school year. Photo by John Wagner

Scandia principal ends 33-year career in June

One of the kindergarten teachers at Scandia Elementary had a baby recently, and school principal Julie Greiman was determined to not let concerns about COVID-19 prevent her and the school’s teachers from having a baby shower just before the due date.

“She lives in the western part of the Cities, but that didn’t stop us – we surprised her with a drive-by baby shower,” Greiman said. “The look on her face when we drove past her house was absolutely priceless. This was just a few days before her due date, and all I could think of was that I hoped we didn’t cause her to go into labor.”

That focus on fostering relationships has been a hallmark of Greiman’s career, which has spanned 33 years in the Forest Lake school system, including the past 15 as principal at Scandia Elementary School. Greiman is retiring at the end of this school year, but she hopes that emphasis on bonding,her trademark at Scandia will continue.

“I’ve always believed that, if you don’t make a connection with a kid, all the teaching ability in the world won’t help you,” she said. “We’ve tried to build relationships here at Scandia. Our kids have to know that someone in this building cares about them. If they do, they’ll bend over backwards to learn.”

A native of Algona, Iowa, Greiman accepted her first teaching job in a fifth-grade class at Columbus Elementary in 1979, fresh after graduating from Buena Vista College.

“I had licensure in both elementary school and in high school to teach English,” she said. “I grew up on a farm in northern Iowa and had been to the Twin Cities, so I was looking for a job there. Larry Carlson interviewed me for the position at Forest Lake, and I accepted it. And right away Forest Lake reminded me of my home.”

Greiman left that teaching position in 1985 to start a family, then returned to the classroom in 1993 to teach a combined class of first, second and third graders at Central Montessori School. She held that position until 2003, where her work in the classroom and in a variety of committees led others to see something in her she may not have noticed.

“I had teachers tell me, ‘You should be a principal,’” Greiman said. “The principal at Montessori at that time was Steve Massey, who now is our superintendent. And he also encouraged me to really think about being a principal. So I started to take courses to become a principal, and I found out I really liked them.”

Greiman earned a master’s degree in elementary education from Wisconsin-River Falls in 1999, then received her licensure in administration from St. Mary’s University four years later while serving as dean of students at Forest Lake High School.

“I had a number of those high-school kids when they were in elementary school, and that was great,” she said. “But I always knew I wanted to be back in an elementary school. In an elementary school you can do so many things for kids, getting them on a good path to grow and develop.”

So she accepted the job at Scandia Elementary, and she has held that position ever since. Among her achievements at the school have been:

• Receiving accreditation as an International Baccalaureate World School in 2015.

• Leading a renovation of the school building, which at one point included moving classes into one half of the building as the other was demolished while school was in session.

• Transitioning into a program called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports that led Scandia to a designation as a PBIS school in 2019.

The Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association recognized Greiman with its Leadership Achievement Award from the MESPA’s East Suburban Division in 2019.

While Greiman has had success as a principal, she has viewed her role in that position through the eyes of her faculty.

“I’ve always loved being a teacher,” she said. “So I’ve already viewed my role as principal as being an instructional leader for my teachers. It wasn’t a hard segue to work with teachers on an instruction program. I think my 16 years in the classroom helped me in working with teachers. They knew I had walked the walk, so I was able to talk the talk.

“I know I am their quote-unquote boss, and I will be the one who evaluates them. But I want to develop relationships with them as well. They need to feel as if I’m in their corner, helping and supporting them.”

Greiman admitted the decision to retire was not an easy one.

“My husband, Brad, and I talked about this over the fall and winter,” Julie Greiman said. “He’s a professor at the University of Minnesota, and we both felt it was time to retire. We both feel we’ve had wonderful careers, but maybe now is the time to travel and spend time with our children.”

She can add spending time with grandchildren to her to-do list, since her daughter Kelsey Johnson and husband Blake are expecting their first child, a son, in August. Greiman’s family also includes son Joshua Carver and his wife, Shannon.

But Julie Greiman’s final days as Scandia principal have taken an unexpected turn because of the stay-home guidelines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Who would have thought this is the way I would end my career?” she said. “But the teachers have worked so hard, and both the teachers and families have been very supportive. I’m glad I’ve been able to help the families that I have become so close to as they go through this. I still hold out hope that sometime in the summer I would be able to say goodbye to all of these wonderful people.”

While she will miss seeing the faces of the children who fill the classrooms at Scandia Elementary, she said she also will miss a group she calls her “adult kids” – her teachers.

“And I will miss my peers, the other principals and administrators and superintendents in this district,” Greiman said. “I’m going to miss it all. I just got an email from a family whose kids haven’t gone here in years, and it was a wonderful email thanking me for being part of their education. I’m going to miss that.”

She also wanted to thank the first person that she hired at Scandia, her administrative assistant, Kathy Wolfbauer.

“I was hired in May, so I got the opportunity to hire my administrative assistant,” Greiman said. “She has been with me for 15 years, and she has been my right hand. She has been absolutely fabulous to work with for 15 years. I think I hit a grand slam with Kathy as my first hire.”

Greiman is not sure what the next chapter in her life will bring – planning baby showers, perhaps? – but she is certain it will involve developing relationships and working with people, especially with children.

“It’s hitting me that this is really happening, and it’s getting harder and harder to say goodbye,” she admitted. “I knew it would be hard to say goodbye. But it has been a joyride.”

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