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New Principal Holly Haase prepared for successful year at Riverside Academy

RESERVE — Stepping in as the new principal for Riverside Academy in Reserve, Holly Haase looks forward to strengthening academic programs and helping middle school students find success in a time of transition.

Two of Haase’s children, a sophomore and a sixth grader, will be joining her on campus for the 2021-2022 school year. It didn’t take long for them to realize how close-knit the Riverside family is. Haase wants to embrace traditions that have been built by multigenerational family ties while taking steps to make Riverside Academy competitive academically.

“I’m trying to focus on ensuring that our kids leave Riverside knowing the same information that any other student in Louisiana does. I want to make sure they can compete at a college level or in the workforce if they choose not to go to college,” Haase said.

“I am going to ensure that we work on keeping a rigorous curriculum. We’re going to work on ACT prep, getting our kids prepared to be successful on the ACT. Then I’m going to start working with RPCC or some of the other area trade schools to help bring programs to Riverside. I want students to start getting some experience while they’re here.”

Some programs Haase would like to see at the school include welding, shop and LPN classes. She would also like to build partnerships with local industries to help students get their foot in the door.

Haase can’t overlook what Riverside Academy is already doing well, especially when it comes to extracurriculars. The band, theater program and athletics are second-to-none, and she would like to continue building upon these opportunities by introducing STEM and robotics clubs.

“One of the things that we are focusing on this year is bridging academics with other activities such as athletics and the arts. I’m working with all three areas to bridge that together because I believe we should educate the whole child. When a kid walks into our school building, it is our responsibility to educate them beyond their curriculum,” Haase said.

Another focus for the 2021-2022 school year will be developing a middle school. Haase said the elementary program is strong under the direction of Kristen Roccaforte. However, once middle schoolers leave the strong foundation of the elementary program, they tend to get lost among the high schoolers.

Haase said middle schoolers can’t be taught in the same way as elementary or high school students; getting through to them requires trust and an environment they can thrive in.

“This year, we have Miss Amy DiMaggio as our middle school supervisor,” Haase said. “We are working together to make it a true middle school so they are in their own little pod of the school. We have a mission and a focus for them. We’re going to teach them how to be successful students.”

Haase was born and raised in Lafayette. She attended college at USL, now known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and began her career in business administration. After moving to Southeast Louisiana, she worked with the American Heart Association and the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.

After getting married in the early 2000s, Haase went back to school to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming an educator. At age 18 she’d made the mistake of listening to people who warned her she wouldn’t make much money as a teacher, but she came to realize that happiness is what matters most.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. My heart has always been drawn to working with kids and helping them believe in themselves,” Haase said. “You can achieve anything no matter your background, no matter what happened in your past. You can change and move forward. I wanted to help students understand that.”

Haase began her teaching career in St. James and Ascension parishes, focusing on third through eighth grade. Since 2012, she has served as a master teacher, a mentor teacher and an instructional coach. Just as she encouraged students, Haase also found herself encouraging teachers and working with them on implementing best practices in the classroom.

It was a natural transition to step into the role of principal for Riverside Academy. A recent principal meet and greet saw a good turnout from Riverside families.

“We had really good support from alumni and from current parents. I enjoyed talking with them and hearing about what works here, as well as some things we need to think about,” Haase said. “Everything was pretty much in line with things that we’re already starting to implement to make Riverside a better school.”

During the meet and greet, Haase challenged everyone to proudly wear their red and blue colors and talk to at least one person about what Riverside Academy has to offer.

Haase said enrollment is open, and all are invited to contact the office to set up a tour of the school.