Germaine Stewart and third-grader Nola Powell-Kenner

Germaine Stewart knew at an early age that she wanted to become a teacher.

Stewart’s third grade teacher allowed her to grade papers and help her classmates when she finished her own work.  Now a principal at Twillman Elementary School in the Hazelwood School District, Stewart has spent her professional career changing the lives not only of her students, but also more recently coaching her teaching colleagues to implement more creative instructional strategies.

“I knew early on that I had the ‘teacher’ bug,” Stewart said. “The joy that I felt when I helped a peer to learn something new was unmatched by any other felling I had experienced. I chose to become a teacher because I knew I could change lives. I knew I could help others to pursue and accomplish their goals. I knew the power of a quality of education and desired to ensure as many students as possible would have just that.”

Stewart is a product of the St. Louis Public Schools. A graduate of Metro High School, Stewart earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Truman State University in 1990, and later earned a master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She also holds an educational specialist degree from Lindenwood University, where she is pursuing a doctorate in instructional leadership.

After teaching elementary school in Shelby County, Tenn., for four years, Stewart returned to St. Louis and spent a year at Riverview Gardens High School. Stewart spent three years teaching at Central Middle School in the Riverview Gardens district. For Stewart, it felt good to be home.

“I had wonderful, dedicated teachers to impart their knowledge to me. They taught me not only academic lessons, but the important of being courageous, responsible and respectful,” Stewart said. “I felt I had an obligation to give back to the St. Louis area. I wanted to teach at-risk students who may not have access to the same level of opportunity. I had committed myself to always standing for what is best for my students, even if I had to stand alone.”

Stewart also challenged herself, taking on responsibilities as a school improvement facilitator, instructional guide and district professional development facilitator. In 2010, she was promoted to principal at Gibson Elementary School, perhaps the most challenging experience of her professional life.

“I knew I was making a difference with the teachers and the students, so the logical next step was to become a building principal,” Stewart said. “I decided I could impact even more students, families and teachers as a principal.”

During Stewart’s tenure, Gibson went from one of the lowest-achieving schools on the MAP Test to one of the Riverview Gardens’ schools with the highest test scores for three straight years. Gibson also met the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Schools’ targets during her first year as principal.

Stewart earned Riverview Gardens District Teacher of the Year in 2002, and Riverview Gardens Central Middle School Teacher of the Year in 2002. In 2013, she accepted the position as principal at Twillman Elementary.

“Germaine Stewart has been a great addition to the administrative team,” said Willicia Hobbs, assistant superintendent of the Hazelwood School District. “Her focus has been on developing strong student/teacher relationships, strong teacher/principal relationships and a strong partnership with community members. Germaine is very driven.”

Hobbs noted that Stewart quickly began classroom observations to learn about the instructional practices of her staff. She also encouraged teachers to thoroughly analyze student data.

“Germaine stressed monitoring all students’ academic and social progress,” Hobbs said. “We are very proud of Germaine’s commitment to academic excellence.”

Stewart is proud of her own children’s educational commitment. Her two oldest children attend Truman State University; the youngest is a senior at Fort Zumwalt High School.

Stewart’s professional career is a testament to the fact that a driven individual can change the culture of a school to one of high expectations and accountability for student, teachers and parents alike.

“I wasn’t sure if becoming a principal would still give me the opportunity to have the daily contact with instruction and students, which I loved so much,” Stewart said. “I hoped I could change lives the way my teachers in SLPS had done for me. I vowed I would continue to build positive relationships with students, to continue coaching teachers, and remain a ‘teacher’ at heart.”

Stewart is humbled to be a recipient of the Excellence in Education Award from the St. Louis American Foundation, but also feels validated that her daily work has not gone unnoticed.

“Receiving this award means I am working to fulfill my dreams of having a positive impact on others’ lives,” Stewart said. “It also is motivation for me to continue to strive to have an even greater impact on my students, their families and my community.”

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