Born in Lakewood California, I completed my undergraduate work at California State University, Long Beach earning a B.A. in Political Science. I continued on completing post-graduate work in both Elementary and Special Education earning my teaching certificate in elementary education, learning disabilities, cognitive impairments and English as a Second Language. In 2000, I returned to the university setting at Western Michigan University earning two Masters degrees in Educational Leadership and Evaluation, Measurement and Research along with post-graduate studies in Special Education Administration resulting in Michigan approval as a Special Education Administrator. I am currently enrolled in the Doctoral Program for Evaluation, Measurement and Research with Western Michigan University.
I began my teaching career in California for Long Beach Unified Schools gaining a variety of teaching experience in elementary education, special education, and gifted and talented. With over eight years of classroom experience, I have been able to teach in California, Florida, Iowa and Michigan. In the fall of 2001, I transitioned out of the classroom to work for National Heritage Academies, a large charter management company located in Grand Rapids, Michigan as the Assistant Director of Special Education. I was fortunate enough to lead and oversee 57 schools in four different states. In 2003, I accepted a position in Mona Shores Public Schools located in Muskegon, Michigan as the Director of Student Services and Special Education. I believe I posses a keen sense of mission-building, with strength in motivating staff to take philosophical ownership and meet goals. My focus is to be a mentor and lead staff through example and hands-on support to enable everyone to champion and enact change to stimulate growth.
I have served on numerous committees both at the local and state level. At the local level, I have worked both in Mona Shores Public Schools and with the Muskegon County Intermediate School district on committees and workgroups for Response to Intervention, Positive Behavior Supports, K-12 curriculum mapping, data warehousing, and with the Strategic Planning Committee leading community partners and parents with the development of goals and action steps for the district School Improvement Plan. At the state level, I have served as the President of the Michigan Association of Local Special Education Administrators, held an appointment to the Office of Educational Assessment and Accountability Advisory Board for the Michigan Department of Education, been a member of the Data Advisory Committee for the Office of Special Education, and been an active member of the Michigan Association of Administrators Special Education-Legislative and Finance Committee. I am a member of the Council for Exceptional Children, Council for Administrators of Special Education, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and the Michigan Association for School Administrators.
In 1996, I married Donald Smith a fellow Californian who began his career as a protestant parish minister and later a hospital chaplain. In 2005, Donald joined the U.S. Army as a Chaplain and has served in Iraq, El Paso, and South Korea. He is currently the Community Life Chaplain at USAG Hohenfels.
In my spare time I enjoy teaching various education courses at the undergraduate and graduate level, sea kayaking, long distance running, figure skating and ballroom dancing. This spring, I purchased a Vespa scooter, which I can’t wait to ride in Germany. Over the past five years I have been blessed with the ability to see the wonderful diversity our world has to offer by traveling extensively to see my husband.
It is with great excitement and passion for learning that I accept the position of principal at Hainerberg ES. I look forward to "Stepping into a Universe of Possibility".
Penelope A. Miller-Smith
Principal, Hainerberg Elementary School
Gwendolyn B. Ziegler (Gwen) has been named Assistant Principal at Hainerberg Elementary School in Wiesbaden, Germany. Currently, Gwen is employed with the DDESS Kentucky District in Fort Knox, Kentucky. She has been with DoDEA for ten years and served in Nurnberg, Germany, Iwakuni, Japan, Seoul, Korea, and Fort Knox. Gwen describes herself as a Navy Brat. She was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, moved to San Diego, California, went back to Hawaii, then to Birmingham, Alabama and finally Mobile, Alabama where she lived for the next 22 years until she took a position with DoDDS to go to Germany as a Kindergarten teacher, Ms. Ziegler received her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Early Childhood Education from the University of South Alabama, a Sixth Year Program Certificate in Administration/Supervision from the University of Kentucky, and has completed all K-12 Leadership doctoral coursework (all but dissertation) at Nova Southeastern University in Miami, Florida. She says, "I am a life long learner who would rather read a book for learning than a book for fun."
Several years of experience follow Ms. Ziegler as she has been, first and foremost, a teacher for 18 years; teaching kindergarten to 8th grade math. Other positions she has held are assistant principal and principal positions, Fayette County (Lexington, KY) Teacher Incentives Coordinator, KY State Dept of Education Effective Schools Consultant; Georgia Department of Education School Improvement Specialist/Math Trainer, ECE ISS for Math/Science in Seoul, Korea, and currently serves as the DDESS Kentucky District ECE, ISS for Science and Social Studies as well as the district STEM Initiative Point of Contact.