The first thing you notice about Tahoe Lake Elementary School principal Stephanie Foucek is her constant beaming smile. It is very much a part of who she is, a nurturing mother of three children and a second mother to 300 more.
“Stephanie is really the soul of Tahoe Lake.She always has a smile on her face and is very encouraging of all the kids and makes the school feel like a family. –Kara Fox
“She is the best principal we could ever hope for. She has this amazing dedication and cheerful, wonderful attitude,” says PTO board member Heather Rantz.
Like most people who end up making their way to Lake Tahoe, Foucek’s journey here was a winding one. She grew up in Lake Arrowhead, a mountain community near Los Angeles.
“I’ve always been a mountain girl. I knew I wanted to end up in the mountains,” Foucek said. She went to Santa Clara University, obtained her degree in English and headed to Nome, Alaska, to become the morning DJ on a radio station.
After two years in the Alaska, Foucek returned to San Francisco in 1995 and worked for a publishing company for two years. Both her venture to Alaska and time at the publishing company were a promise she made to her mother to do something else before becoming a teacher, something Foucek always believed was her calling in life. She then went back to school, to the University of California, Davis, for her teaching credential. She completed a six-year stint as a teacher at Santa Clara High School, while also getting her Master of Educational Leadership degree at California State University, San Jose.
“A very good friend of mine got me and Chris Foucek together,” she says, and in 2004, the sparks flew. Chris lived in Tahoe and Stephanie was in the Bay Area. They wanted to be together in the mountains. The school job she found in Tahoe at the time was assistant principal at North Tahoe High School.
She was at the high school until 2009, when a reconfiguration in personnel brought her to Tahoe Lake Elementary. While she had taught and been an administrator at the high-school level for more than a decade, she discovered that elementary school is where she belonged.
“I love the kids, of course, so many laughs and so many hugs,” she said. “We have amazing families and staff. Our community is so supportive. You don’t even have to ask to have a need filled. We need volunteers and we always have enough. We dream it and it happens,” Foucek says.
The results have been amazing. Tahoe Lake Elementary was a California Distinguished School in 2014, recognized for the level of student achievement and the school’s focus on science. The school was a California Ribbon School, as well. Only 2 percent of California schools have won both of those awards back to back. While Foucek is quick to credit the kids, the staff and the parents for the school’s success, many of those parents would say that it is due to Foucek’s leadership.
“Stephanie is really the soul of Tahoe Lake. She always has a smile on her face and is very encouraging of all the kids and makes the school feel like a family,” said Kara Fox, parent of an 8-year-old student. “My son has disabilities and is in the special ed program. Stephanie and her staff really do a good job of integrating him with the other kids and making him part of the school. Tahoe Lake wouldn’t be the same without her.”
In 2018, the school will undergo an upgrade so intensive that all the students will have to move to Rideout Community Center while the construction is under way. While some might bemoan the changes, Foucek talks about how great the school will be when they get back. The move will be an adventure. “We are going to be cozy and creative,” she says.
Next year, Foucek will have all three of her daughters with her at Tahoe Lake Elementary School. She says that she is happy about that and happy to be living at the lake.
“Tahoe really is the perfect place to live. It combines opportunities for professional growth, a place to raise a family, great friendships and the lifestyle of living outdoors,” said Foucek.
The mission for Tahoe Lake Elementary School can best be described by a quote from the poet Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
For Foucek, her mission is making kids and parents feel good about Tahoe Lake Elementary School.
Learn more about local schools at ttusd.org.
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