Woller plans to listen first as new Jefferson Elementary principal

Jay Woller WAPS

Jay Woller won’t move his picture frames and water bottles into the corner office at Jefferson Elementary for a few weeks yet, but he’s already starting to feel at home. 

“I have already had several people reach out to me with a warm welcome,” said Woller, who will be the next Jefferson Elementary principal. “That’s impressive!”

Woller replaces Maggie Maine, who accepted the same position at an elementary school in La Crosse. He comes to Winona Area Public Schools from East Union Elementary in Chaska, Minn. He has been in the education profession for more than 25 years, including nine as an elementary principal and eight more as a middle school assistant principal. 

But he’s not looking to talk about his ideas or lean on what he has learned elsewhere. He’s looking to listen to the stories of the students, the families, the teachers and the staff members that comprise the Jefferson community.

“I am a listener first,” Woller said. “I find the act of listening to be the cornerstone of problem-solving. I believe that if we listen to understand, no matter the situation, we can combine our talents and skills to better meet the needs of all.”

What Woller has heard so far has impressed him. 

“From my first introduction, it was clear that staff members are incredibly committed to serving students and families,” he said. 

Woller said he was impressed by district programs that support the whole child academically, socially and emotionally. He mentioned programs like Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), the Ríos Spanish Immersion program and a focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum that help set Jefferson and WAPS apart. 

“I look forward to jumping in and contributing to their success,” he said. “I want to foster and support an environment where students are inspired to be curious, be inquisitive and to be strong learners. I believe that Jefferson Elementary is that place for students and I look forward to bringing my best to the Jefferson Elementary community.’

Woller looks at every interaction — even the negative ones — as an opportunity to build a connection. He has a growth mindset and is driven to create a community with strong relationships and a love for learning. 

“I believe that together we can do more,” Woller said. “I look forward to learning about the strengths and challenges facing Jefferson Elementary. I want to lift up the successful practices and identify opportunities for growth that will better support students and the community moving forward.”

Woller said he is excited to be back in the bluffs. He was the principal at La Crescent-Hokah Elementary School from 2013-2017 and is eager to get his bike on the area trails. He and his wife Heidi have two sons, Parker (16) and Payson (14). They are a family of cyclists, runners, skateboarders and hockey players. 

Woller also loves music, sports, motorcycles and podcasts — and a good cheesy joke to start off the morning announcements. 

“I am excited to meet everyone and listen to the stories of our students, staff and families,” he said. “I am convinced that everyone brings their own talents, interests, skills and abilities to the learning community. I look forward to hearing each story and building relationships in Year One.”