Stacie Zanzucchi did not grow up in a family of teachers, but in her free time, she and her friends would pretend they were at school.
“Lots of kids play ‘house’ or ‘doctor,’” Zanzucchi said. “We played ‘school’ and ‘museum.’”
Even after pretending it as a child, Zanzucchi said she always thought she would be a lawyer or a social worker. She did not take education classes until her junior year of college, but ended up graduating from Northern Arizona University with a degree in Spanish Education.
Zanzucchi worked at Sinagua High School and became the principal at Marshall Elementary School before becoming the principal at Coconino High School.
“I’ve always loved school,” she said. “I get a lot of joy out of school and I want school to be enjoyable.”
Zanzucchi is one of two principals in Coconino County to be honored as a Rodel Foundation Exemplary Principal. The award honors principals in high-need communities. As a winner, Zanzucchi will be required to mentor aspiring principals.
“It’s an honor, more than anything,” Zanzucchi said when she found out she had been nominated. “There are so many amazing principals in Flagstaff. We are fortunate to have a cohort of extraordinary leaders here.”
Zanzucchi said she was most proud of the environment of CHS, one that she said creates a sense of belonging “where everyone has a voice.”
“We teach everything here from behavior to academics,” she said. “We are always learning, growing and improving.”
She said in order to create an environment where students can be their best, teachers must feel supported.
“In order for the students to be highly successful, the teachers must be highly successful,” Zanzucchi said. “I don’t want teachers to have to spend their own money on pencils or Post-It notes. It’s the little things that make a big difference.”
FUSD Superintendent Barbara Hickman, who nominated Zanzucchi for the award, said Zanzucchi is known to always support CHS students in their academics and extracurricular activities.
“Mrs. Zanzucchi has an incredible passion for her job. She is deeply committed to the students and staff at Coconino High School,” Hickman said in an email. “Her attention to school climate and personal involvement with the success of her school has made significant and positive impacts on Coconino. She is a relentless believer in public school and the importance of academic achievement coupled with compassion.”
Zanzucchi said balancing priorities is key to being a successful principal.
“You have to be discerning about what is urgent at that moment,” she said. “You have to follow through and follow up. It can be an all-consuming job.”
She said she devotes the first half hour of her work day to listening to messages, reading emails from parents, making sure substitutes are present for teachers who are out and making sure any problems are understood. But when students arrive she always makes herself visible.
She does formal observations inside classrooms and tries to informally visit classrooms throughout the day as well, in addition to meetings with students and parents daily.
“That’s in the absence of any catastrophic event,” Zanzucchi said, noting that those events happen often.
Zanzucchi said she is always open to creative input to solve problems, and she said prides the school and staff o- being flexible and creative with problem solving.
‘We need to create an exciting environment,” Zanzucchi said. “Find joy in the journey, and make sure all decisions come back to student learning.”