Greater Latrobe Superintendent, Dr. Teppert, set to retire


July 31, 2019, was the first day on the job for Dr. Georgia Teppert as the superintendent of the Greater Latrobe School District. But it wasn’t her first day of being a member of the community in the district of Greater Latrobe. Teppert started as an assistant principal on August 1, 1999, on the senior high level. She has been a member of the school district for 23 years while committing to public education for 34 years. She has served in many different roles: assistant high school principal, high school principal, director of support services, assistant superintendent, and–as she retires–superintendent. She has enjoyed every moment of being a member of the district. January 3, 2022, will be Dr. Teppert’s final day as superintendent of the Greater Latrobe School District, but her presence will remain in the district.

Teppert started her career in education by earning her undergraduate degree in health, physical education, and dance from Slippery Rock University. Her first opportunity was at Valley School of Ligonier as a physical education teacher as well as the lacrosse and field hockey coach. She then went back to her old stomping grounds of Southmoreland High School to become the physical education and health teacher while also coaching competitive cheer.  Teppert continued her educational growth at California University of Pennsylvania to complete her master’s degree in education, as well as her principal certification.

 Teppert accepted her first administrative role as the assistant high school principal in the Richland School District in Johnstown. She took the opportunity to become the assistant principal at the Ligonier Valley School District before the Ligonier Valley and Laurel Valley schools merged together.

While at Ligonier Valley, Teppert was contacted and recruited by Dr. Sarokin, assistant superintendent at the time at Greater Latrobe. “It’s kind of funny because at that time I’m like, I’m happy where I am. So I didn’t go over for the first call. He called me a second time and I said, I don’t know. I love Latrobe but I’m happy where I am. Then the third time he called I said, I’m going to go for an interview. And I was hired as assistant principal, and it was the best move I have made in my entire life–coming to Greater Latrobe School District,” said Teppert. 

Teppert found her new home here in the Greater Latrobe community.

While serving as an assistant principal at GLSH, she continued to devote to her educational progress at the University of Pittsburgh by receiving certification in curriculum and instruction. When she became principal, she also earned her doctorate degree from the University of Pittsburgh. As time went on, Teppert was promoted through the ranks, reaching the epitome of education by becoming the superintendent of the Greater Latrobe School District.

When Teppert entered the district in 1999, she brought attention to the 40 Developmental Assets. As a leader, she was trying to create resilience to the major school shooting at Columbine and the first year of the mandated requirements for the PSSA’s. She wanted to ensure the district takes a proactive approach so that nothing happens at Greater Latrobe like at Columbine. 

“We had committees that talked about metal detectors, school resource officers, etc. But after doing a lot of research, you can have all the outside things protecting structures, but if your youth possess developmental assets of integrity, positive character, taking responsibility for their actions; that other stuff doesn’t really matter,” said Teppert. 

“What’s in a student with their internal assets is extremely important. The 40 development is not a program, it’s a way of living, it’s a way of connecting with youth, and building relationships.” Teppert said. 

The 40 Developmental Assets have been a part of the culture at Greater Latrobe; the building blocks of senior high students were highlighted by the Breakfast of Champions, where a teacher from each department publicly recognized a student who possesses those assets. That same sort of recognition was sparked in its own way throughout the buildings of the district. 

The whole goal, from Teppert’s lens, is to make sure that our schools are providing a positive environment for all students. “The more assets you display, the more likely you are to not engage in risky behavior,” said senior high school principal Jon Mains, who carries that vision forward.

Another idea that was introduced to the district under Teppert’s leadership is the Project Based Learning (PBL) philosophy, a program that includes real-world problem-solving, the connection of teamwork, and the use of science and engineering. It requires students to connect or communicate with a community organization, based on a problem, and most importantly to find a solution to the problem. 

“Right now, students need to be able to critically think; they need to be able to problem-solve; they need to work together as a team; they need to be a collaborator,” said Teppert. “Project Based Learning is just one avenue for students to be able to show those skills so that when they get out of high school–whether they pursue technical school, college, workforce, and even the military–those skills can be utilized to the fullest extent,” said Teppert. 

Project Based Learning provides students with new opportunities in today’s world by building skills to be successful in life.

The Future Ready Comprehensive Plan and Education 2025 are two things that really stand out during Teppert’s time as superintendent. The Comprehensive Plan consists of the school district’s vision, mission, and educational values. Being a part of the plan means that members of the school district can collaborate with hundreds of districts across the country. 

The plan gives the district a vision of where it should be in 2025, and how we get there. “Some of the key initiatives for Education 2025 are social-emotional learning and A Portrait of a Graduate,” said Teppert. “Being a part of Education 2025 gives our administrators and our teachers an opportunity to attempt professional development in those key areas that we feel our students need to be,” said Teppert. 

The Future Ready Comprehensive Plan was approved by the school board in November of 2021, and Teppert and her team got it started. “With this committee, we were able to design our vision, our mission, and our educational values which are in our comprehensive plan. And that ties into Education 2025,” said Teppert.

Teppert’s connection with the district’s focus on the Three A’s: Arts, Academics, and Athletics have been something that has stayed with her throughout her career in education; whether coaching sports, teaching academics, or participating in the arts. The A’s are a part of the cohesive well-rounded citizen who graduates from Greater Latrobe. “In my past, I’ve always had the Three A’s, and I was fortunate. I was a gymnast.  I was involved with athletics.  I was a dancer and in college on the tour group. Then I always took pride in my academics. The arts and athletics really support and make a foundation for somebody to achieve academically as well,” said Teppert. “The Three A’s are very important. They have been important for me, are important to students, as well for our educators here at Latrobe,” said Teppert.

March 13, 2020. That day affected the entire school district, as well as the world at large. The spread of COVID-19 throughout the entire country is what ultimately led to the decision which Teppert and her team made for the safety of the district. “Administratively, we were already planning. When we heard about the possibility of COVID, we were putting plans in line six weeks ahead,” said Teppert. At first, the district was planning to have two weeks at home, which then turned into the rest of the 2020 school year with remote learning. “It was and it continues to be a moving target. You could have a plan ready-to-go, and it could change in a minute’s time,” said Teppert. 

Many things went into the planning for COVID from the superintendent’s lens such as, feeding the students who need meals, making sure each student has the technology in order to be a part of remote learning, and keeping an eye on if anything came out from either the governor or the Pennsylvania Department of Education. 

“There were many nights I was sitting in my kitchen at eleven o’clock at night, with my team members, making phone calls to parents,” said Teppert. “I know everybody thought that we were shut down during that time, because our country did, but we never shut down,” said Teppert.

 “She took the helm during a really difficult time and when no one could be made happy–and leadership positions are like that–and I’m thankful for her service,” said senior high teacher Brad Wetzel. 

The main staple of Teppert’s tenure at Greater Latrobe is the positive culture that she instilled in the classrooms and in each of the schools. “If you’ve ever seen Dr. Teppert, you’ve probably seen her in the schools walking the hallways and popping into classrooms saying hello to both students and teachers,” said senior high teacher, Mrs. Gunther. 

“I’m always out in the buildings, popping in and out of classes. Many times students don’t even know who their superintendent is. My goal when I was first hired as superintendent was to build those connections and relationships with the students and the staff,” said Teppert. 

Dr. Teppert has impacted many people here in the district throughout her time at Greater Latrobe. She has provided wisdom, optimism, and leadership in her administrative staff and the teachers at all of the schools. “She was a positive role model not just for the newer teachers, but for the veteran teachers as well,” said senior high school teacher, Michelle Butler. 

Even though Dr. Teppert will be retiring from Greater Latrobe at the beginning of 2022, she will continue to be involved in activities and events that will be taking place here at the schools. 

Teppert said, “I’m definitely going to miss it, but what I would say to students is to enjoy the time that you are here. Take advantage of every opportunity, if it’s college and high school classes, dual enrollment classes, participating in the arts, the athletics, the academics, the career pathways. Take advantage of what’s here to prepare you for your future.”

Teppert’s seeds have been planted here at Greater Latrobe and will continue to grow throughout each student as they pass through the halls of the Greater Latrobe school district.