LOS LUNAS — As schools return to in-person learning, Katherine Gallegos Elementary students are seeing a new, but familiar, face in the principal’s chair.
Jeffrey Hartog, who has worked as the KGE assistant principal for the past two years, became the schools’ principal ahead of the 2021-22 school year.
“I’m looking forward to educating our kids and getting the most out of them academically and just making sure our kids are as prepared as they can be going forth to middle school,” Hartog said.
Hartog said his experience as an assistant principal at the school prepared him for his new position since he was able to get to know the school and the surrounding community prior to the new role.
“I think my knowledge of the building and my knowledge of the school community greatly helps my experience in me being the principal,” he said. “ I know the teachers, I know their strengths, I know the students and what makes them tick and (I know) the parents. All that prior knowledge of being here for two years is a great benefit.”
While Hartog only made the move to central New Mexico about three years after his wife got a job at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, he has been working as an educator for more than 20 years. Most recently he held an administrator position with Gallup McKinley County Schools.
Hartog said his father, who was a teacher with Gallup McKinley County Schools for 46 years, helped guide his decision to pursue education as a career path.
“I think, just being around him and knowing the school,” he said. “ I love kids, I love working with kids and that kind of thing. I think that is what influenced me to get into education.”
His desire to be a baseball coach also helped in pursuing education, viewing teaching as the best path to be a coach. Hartog coached middle school, freshman and junior varsity baseball while living and teaching in California.
In the first week of August, Katherine Gallegos Elementary welcomed back more than 600 pre-K through sixth-grade students.
Going into the 2021-22 school year, Hartog wants to analyze and assess students’ needs moving back to in-person learning after a year of learning online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There have been a lot of things that have changed technology wise in the way we have taught over the past year,” Hartog said. “Just making sure that we have learned over the past year, all of the great things we have put into place and making sure that those things stay in place and we are striving forward in our teaching and not falling back into old habits.”
After students’ greatest needs are addressed, then he wants to address any achievement gaps that can be addressed and filled. Hartog said he hopes he’s able to guide his students and staff as they navigate education in a post-pandemic time.
“I am honored to be the principal here at KGE and continue the tradition of excellent education that we have set forth,” he said.
Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, SODA and the town of Peralta.