Mike Kirst Named New Principal for Brevard Elementary School

Mike Kirst Named New Principal for Brevard Elementary School
Posted on 05/18/2020
Mike Kirst Named New Principal for Brevard Elementary School

At their regular business meeting on Monday, May 18, 2020, the Transylvania County Board of Education approved the recommendation of Michael Kirst as the new principal for Brevard Elementary School effective July 1, 2020.

“I am excited for Mr. Kirst for this opportunity,” said Superintendent Dr. Jeff McDaris. “Mike is a strong leader, and that was quickly evident in his work at Pisgah Forest Elementary. Being a school principal is among the hardest and most demanding jobs anywhere. It takes leadership, experience, strong educational background, and an understanding of the sheer complexity and dynamics involved with educational leadership.”

Before coming to Transylvania County Schools as assistant principal for Pisgah Forest Elementary School in 2018, Kirst was a history teacher, assistant football coach, and assistant to the athletic director at Millbrook High School in Raleigh from 2007 to 2015. He then served Cary High School as a social studies teacher and head football coach before coming to Transylvania County in 2018.

Kirst said he wants to continue a legacy of building strong relationships and community, both with students and families, and among the staff at Brevard Elementary School.

Mike Kirst Named New Principal for Brevard Elementary School“Relationships drive a lot,” he said. “When this school system talks about ‘family first,’ we mean it—taking care of each other, fostering professional growth, and nurturing community between our schools and our families. This tight-knit community appealed to us as a family, and we hope to help others find what we have found here.”

Mike Kirst came to teaching by what he calls “a different route,” after several years as a summer camp counselor and director. While working at the University of Redlands in southern California, he also earned all his credentials—bachelor’s degree in history, teaching certification, and master’s in educational administration—before completing his student teaching experience. 

Asked about his mentors, Kirst credits his current principal Tonya Treadway at Pisgah Forest, and also his own elementary school principal, Brian Gilchrist, who built relationships with students and families at school, and as a little league coach.

“We had a really strong connection, because he was my principal and my coach,” said Kirst, “and I admired him for that. He is an inspiration, because not that long ago principals might not have been expected to be as connected. Today, we have to know our students and families and build strong relationships. He cared for everyone on his staff, and for every child, and I always remember that.”

Kirst also thanked Tonya Treadway for her positive influence. “Mrs. Treadway has been a very good mentor. One key strength I appreciate that benefits all staffers at PFE is that ‘Treadway’ gives everyone enough freedom to grow. She is not restrictive and gives every professional true freedom. I feel I can learn from her and my own coaching experience, as I aim to give space for every person to do their job and exhaust their own talents, without feeling constrained.”

Teaching is an important value to Kirst’s whole family: his sister, sister-in-law, and wife are all teachers, as well as his mother who is now retired.

“I remember being at school a lot with my mom,” said Kirst of his mother, Bartley Kirst, who taught foreign languages for 20 years. “She showed me a model of teaching and teacher leadership as the chair of a large department at Ironwood High School (in Glendale, Arizona).

“I was always doing tasks over summer, moving books and furniture, doing nuts and bolts at school. It gave me the opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes, and how hard the job is for teachers at every level.”

Schools are the center of our communities,” said McDaris. “For public school leaders to be successful in our schools, they must possess abundant warmth and love for both our children and their ongoing education. Michael has these qualities and skills, and Brevard Elementary is a great school with a variety of gifts and goals, where I know he will do well.”

Kirst emphasized that his family moved from Cary to Western North Carolina seeking the holistic and family-centered approach they have found in Transylvania County Schools. 

“It’s been a focus at Brevard Elementary, and throughout my experience as a coach and educator—building strong positive relationships with students, supporting families, and encouraging staff.

“People are naturally inclined to give more when they know they are cared for. And if we challenge students as learners and challenge teachers as professionals, we will all find our strengths and focus on achieving our goals together.”

Teaching high school social studies and coaching football helped Kirst bring a unique perspective to taking an elementary role at this critical point where American history is being made in real time.

“Knowing our history gives us an opportunity to learn from choices people have made,” he said, “and to see how those choices lead to success or failure. 

“It causes us to reflect on our current situation, as well as how we take care of each other during the ’good’ times when there isn’t a virus for us to deal with. I look forward to continuing the work done by our BES staff and evaluating how we can help every student grow, despite any obstacles coming our way.”

Working in Transylvania County Schools during the pandemic response has shown what matters most to the community and school system, said Kirst, as well as the many people who contribute to a team approach of serving the “whole child.”

“The efforts by staff to support our families and their various needs have been outstanding,” he said. “We continue to be flexible in our approach to evaluate what’s working and where we can improve. There are so many I know we want to thank in transportation, school nutrition, teachers, counselors, and administrators, and of course, our families.

“We know the needs continue! That’s why my first priority will be to strengthen our existing relationships at Brevard Elementary, then to meet our students at their own level, challenging students as learners—whether remote or in-person—to keep them engaged, interested, and curious every day.”

Mike Kirst and his wife Kristen, their children Everett and Rozalyn, and the family dog, Porter, live in Etowah.

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