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Q&A with Principal Karen Manzi

July 11, 2018
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Fort Myers Beach Elementary School's new principal Karen Manzi started July 1, taking over for former principal Jeffrey Dobbins. Manzi, like Dobbins, has been a part of the Lee County School District for years. Manzi grew up in New Jersey, but moved to Sarasota when she was 12 and has been working in the district for 31 years. She studied at Saint Leo University, started as a kindergarten teacher and moved up through elementary and then into administration, coming to the beach school from her position as principal at Orange River Elementary in Fort Myers.

Manzi has been a Fort Myers Beach resident for three years.

What's kept you in this district for more than 30 years?

Article Photos

Karen Manzi left Orange River Elementary in Fort Myers to take the position of principal of Fort Myers Beach Elementary.

I've been here since I graduated form college. I love it here, this is my stomping ground. I've lived on Fort Myers Beach for three years. I always lived in Fort Myers, but I moved out here... it's awesome out here. I drove by this school every day and would wave at it, and go, I'd like to be there one day.

What led you to a career in education?

I always worked with kids. I was a camp counselor, a life guard. I always thought I was meant to be a teacher. So when I went to school, that was my goal. I started in kindergarten with the little guys, because that's what I thought I was best at, and worked my way up to the older kids as the years went on. I love seeing that light go on in a child when they 'get it.'

I'm looking forward to having some time where I can work with kids; Jeff told me he would go in and have some time to work with kids, so that's great, I look forward to that. When you have 1,000 kids at a school, you don't have as much time to spend teaching, so I look forward to teaching. I love to teach writing.

What are some goals you have for the beach school? What will be different here than in your previous posts?

Really, for the kids , obviously academically I want to see them make growth where ever they are, enjoy school and love coming here every day. They just love it here, and I want them to continue loving it, and keep getting them to the next step. My background has always been with kids that have struggled, so I focus on getting kids to be successful.

I can't wait for everybody to come back. I'm ready to see everybody.

It will be nice to meet the parents and be able to build those relationships with the kids and the parents, and really the whole community. It will be really nice to have a community where I live. I have never worked where I live. It will be nice to work right here, get to know the kids and see them around. That's going to be different. The size of the school will be a blessing, because you can get to know the kids and what they need, know everybody's name

Fort Myers Beach got an "A" rating this year. How will you maintain that rating?

It's always exciting to be an A school. With the focus on academics we should be able to keep that going. Of course that's only one small part of what the kids do, because that's all based on their Florida Standards Assessment scores, but I think we will try hard to be well rounded in everything that the kids do. Whatever they need, we take them from where they are and go from there.

What do you like to do, outside of work?

I love to travel and see other countries. I love Europe, I've been to 10 or 12 countries there. And Scandinavia for a summer, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. In my free time I really like to travel and see other cultures. Until you really experience that, you just don't know what you have here. It's a different world.



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