Me and my classmate, Despina, had a school project to do, an interview with a person with significant achievements. For this interview, we chose a very special person to us, Mrs. Paşcalău Maria, principal at the National Informatics High School Arad. She has impressed us from all points of view, from posture, elegance and speech to the feelings of admiration she has transmitted to us.
First of all, good afternoon! Thank you for accepting this interview with the theme “An important person with significant achievements”. Being one of the best leaders of educational institutions, a manager and an accomplished leader, you are an admired woman, I could say, due to your qualities and talent. Your achievements live through our educational improvement and goals.
Thank you for your daily effort in organizing and developing this institution. But we, like many other people, ask ourselves who is Mrs Pascalau. I would like to start with the first question:
- How was your childhood and where did you spend it?
I come from a family with three children, me being in the middle. I have a bigger brother, who is a teacher, and a younger sister, engineer. I had a normal childhood, without excess, but without any deficiencies. We never missed anything and the most important part is that our parents have provided us with all the school supplies. Having three children means that each of us had his own book, so we wouldn’t wait one after the other. School has been a strong point throughout our childhood. It was the target to which each of us was encouraged to move towards the future job and profession. Both my brother and I wanted to become teachers. Behold, I’ve become a teacher and I’m in the 36th year of teaching and in each and every moment I’ve done the profession I’ve chosen.
- What schools and studies have you followed?
Like any young person, gymnasium, a high school with physics-mathematics profile, intensive physics, this means 8 hours of physics per week and let’s not forget that I’m a physics professor, so I’ve well chosen my section, the profile that helped me a lot. Then, the “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iasi, Faculty of Physics, day courses. I would be very happy if my students would follow my example. I admit, I was a very serious teenager, that doesn’t mean I didn’t see movies or didn’t go to disco or what was at the time, but I have never neglected school. I always knew where I am and where I want to end up.
- Can you tell us a funny or pleasant story during high school?
Funny happenings … Maybe one of them is that I was part of a class where most of my colleauges were boys. Maybe some influences have put their mark on me. Male influences, in the sense of rigor, work done thoroughly. We have beautifully educated one another. Perhaps, even from kindergarten I had these leadership skills. That is obvious. For example, in the kindergarten, the kindergarten teacher certainly entrusted me with the role of “Little Red Riding Hood” or “Snow White”. In high school, I was the leader, the head of the class, I was part of the High School Students’ Committee, precisely because the people around me trusted both my ideas and their sure applicability.
- Out of curiosity, do you still keep in touch with your former colleagues?
Yes. I had meetings, maybe not regularly, but I had. The faculty connections are more durable. Perhaps because we were adults and maybe the relationships were set on a little bit clearer terms. Sure, I keep in touch with a lot of colleagues from high school, a lot of them are out of the country but now the technology and the internet allow us to communicate wherever we are. And if it is to remember of a funny story, now I remember something funny, at the 25th year college meeting, one of my colleagues confessed after 25 years how hard he felt in love with me and how much he loved me at that time. Obviously, I was shocked and amazed when I heard it.
- How were you when you were at the same age as us?
Extremely enthusiastic, like today. Major changes didn’t happen in my way of being. I tried to remain the same cheerful man, the same honest man and the same rigorous man. When I was your age, I thought nothing was impossible to my nature and temper. I wasn’t a dreamer, I was aware of the reality around me, but in my mind was that if you really wish something, it could actually become possible and achievable. Many of the dreams of that time have come true.
- We would precisely like to know from you… what does it mean to run a school?
Oooo … It means a lot, a dose of courage, a limitless power of work, I could say; you need a lot of skill to run a school. It seems simple at a first glance, but when you enter a little bit in detail, it means your relationship with students of different generations, of different ages, working with adult colleagues, each one with its problems, each one with its personality. I’ve always treated non-academic staff like my colleagues, even if we’re talking about the cleaning lady, the mechanic or the caretaker in the school unit. You must have the power of adaptability, you must go down to the 6-year-old’s level and make him understand that things can happen in school or not. Going down to the level of a middle school child is hard, but even more sensitive is the situation when you have to enter into a teenager’s skin and try to understand its condition at a particular moment or at a certain phase. I make sure of the feedback from everyone involved and I can say it’s all right. Otherwise, it would not have been a successful school. It will remain and it will continue if things are maintained in some parameters. It is a collective effort, sure that the leader gives the tone, but the implementation is done together by all of us. When we say that a school is great, it means from the smallest to the biggest student, each brings its contribution to the success of a school.
- Have you always had this goal of becoming leader?
No. Definitely not. And I can say it now, after so many years in which I was head of the class and responsible of the high school and college activity, although I was not the number 1 student. I was there, on the third or fourth place. Well, I’ve graduated the Physics Faculty, a pretty tough one. I remember of a colleague who, from the first year to the end, didn’t have any other grades than 10, but finished with a diopter of – 16 because of the studying. In those four years, I have been responsible for the year. I didn’t want this; these things come from the collective to the person. When I started my teaching career, I did it with great pleasure and felt very good as a form teacher. At one point, they propelled me to serve as general inspector for almost 5 years, after that I returned to the team from which I left. Then, from the collective came this idea that a change had to be made, so they proposed to me to take over the reins. This thing happened in 2004. Until 2016, when the great change took place, the school I was running became, with all the modesty, a “brand” of Arad. When you were pronouncing Gymnasium School no. 5, everyone knew what it was about. We are talking about teamwork, but also a leader who has not escaped the situation out of control at all. He never escaped the reins and the direction in which the school should go. Since 2016, since the two schools have became the National High School of Informatics, of course, the trajectory is completely different from what it used to be. Reality confirms that we’re on the right track. We just have to keep up. The school develops continuously. At the moment, we are preparing the documentation for the title of European School for the fourth time. By gathering the documentation, I’m happy to see that we have what it takes and this is also due to you, the students.
- Some efforts have happened for the high school change. Are you satisfied with the overall result?
Never. When we pronounce the name “Paşcalău”, we will never be satisfied. There is always room for better. It’s important to assess your school’s status properly and to set immediate goals and most important, long-term goals.
- How do you think that students should participate in the high school development?
The only purpose or main activity of the students is to learn, whether we’re talking about primary classes, gymnasium classes or high school students, all children are good, they learn, they go to competitions and receive diplomas. Every student is good in his own way. Even if some don’t learn as well as others, they are certainly good at other things. Of course, the high school expectations are pretty high. The presence of the three robotics teams means very much for the young students. I’m very glad that they involve themselves and participate in many competitions with passion and pleasure.
- How do you think your students perceive you?
A delicate question. Here I should be very careful because I receive feedback from both students and adults. I’m used to ask students the question: “Give a note!” Not to me, but to what’s happening to you. Clearly, I didn’t hear a small one. If the note was acceptable then I asked the question: “What is missing to be the maximum?” And of course, the students answered me. Most of the times the students would say, “Ten, ma’am!” And I say maybe it’s not everything perfect.
- What changes have you observed from generation to generation over the years?
Ooo … of course, changes are major and I have to say that I was happy to work in schools, I refer to the Pedagogical High School and the institution we are in. I have worked with students till this point and, of course, with the support of their families, they were good students, focused about what school really means. Changes are radical, if I think of myself as an adult, in 2004, when we took over the direction, we were working with a landline, and now, in 2019, we are talking of advanced mobile phones, high-performance, Internet access. Of course, we need to be careful because these things can have a beneficial or a less beneficial role.
- If you should characterize yourself in just three words, what would those be?
First, the exigency, that’s clear. Second, I’m a very cheerful man and third, perseverance.
- What is the most beautiful experience you’ve ever had in this high school?
Once upon a time, the moment of 15 September 2016, when besides the 1,000 students of Gymnasium School no. 5, almost 500 high school students joined, of course, the words cannot describe the pictures at that time. The school’s yard full of students from age 6 to 18 and a large number of parents who came and attended this event. Clearly, it was the zero moment, like the moment of the birth of a child.
- What are the future plans for the school you are managing?
The desire of receiving the status of “European School”. In September 2018, the school received the status of “Ambassador School of the European Union”. Regarding on robots, I really think of a location where we can make a “small factory”, because they are more and more applicants, so I’m thinking of a place devoted to the students with robotic concerns.
- Being very busy with work, how can you reconcile your professional life with family one?
Hard. Here, the other side should be asked. I have to admit that it is very hard for me to disconnect. Over 1500 children from 53 classes mean a lot. Surely, I’m also helped by the other colleagues. When I get home, I blame myself for failing to disconnect from what school means. I was talking about the passion and determination with which I do everything. If tomorrow I don’t want to be a principal anymore and think I cannot, for me the most elegant gesture is to get up and say, “Thank you, so far I’ve done the best I could, from here the work can be taken over by someone else”. I never complained on how hard it is. I proposed to my colleagues “A day with the principal”, this means to come and spend an entire day with the principal from the first hour and until I close the office. There are very difficult days or easier days, but you will hear no one complaining. The job can be stolen, which is why the principal and the deputy director are in the same office to have a permanent communication.
- Have you ever had any regret throughout the years?
Yes. Of course. I can say that I’m sorry for not having children, personally. It’s an empty space for me and maybe this passion for children comes from here. It’s an unpleasant episode of my life; the children have existed and there have been two totally unfortunate moments in which they have disappeared. Of course life goes on, we have nothing to do. To the question, “Do you have children?” I answer with great pleasure: “Yes, about 1500!”. Perhaps this was one of the reasons why I bent on what the well-being of children means.
- If you would have a motto for your entire career, what would that be?
Carefully choose the profession that you think it fits you, do it with maximum dedication, care for yourself and those around you.
- At the end of this interview, we would like you to give us an advice, to both students and teachers.
Oh, God! We could stay here for a long time. By the nature of the job, I’m clearly in the position of giving advice at any moment. If I’m talking about students, they don’t necessarily refer to the studying side. Perhaps a note of 6 for a young man means more than a pass grade. Not all children can only have 9 and 10. If I refer to my colleagues, surely the advice is omnipresent; in the sense of being correct to students, of being honest with them, of caring about them and about their concerns. I often tell them, “Don’t start the class until you take a look at the students!”. It’s impossible not to notice anything such as sadness, worry or even well-being. These matters mean a lot.
Thank you for your time, and we hope you enjoyed this interview.
I gladly participated!