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FairfaxEducationNew principal at Thoreau Middle familiar with community

New principal at Thoreau Middle familiar with community

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Teresa Khuluki spent the last nine years as principal of Wolftrap Elementary School just north of the town of Vienna. On June 30, she traveled a few miles south to become principal at Thoreau Middle School.

Serving as Thoreau Middle’s principal will let her get back to her enthusiasm for working with older, secondary-level students, Khuluki said.

“I have a huge passion for helping with students and families as they move and transition from one level of school to the next,” she said. “I really felt like it was a unique opportunity for me to take my skill set back to those older students to help, now that I have that K-12 experience.”

Thoreau this fall will have about 1,160 students and 140 staff members. The school underwent a boundary adjustment three years ago and then fielded more than 1,300 students the first year afterward and about 1,200 the second year, she said.

“I have not seen huge changes in the enrollment at Thoreau due to COVID,” Khuluki said. “I think the number has just sort of leveled out.”

Emerging from the pandemic, school officials will need to focus on building trust and relationships and making sure students have the opportunity to connect with each other and redevelop interpersonal skills, she said.

Partnerships that school staff forge with parents represent the No. 1 factor for student achievement, Khuluki has learned over the years.

“Thoreau has phenomenal teachers, but it’s when those teachers and the parents work together that is sort of the sweet spot of making sure all students find success, and it’s OK that that success looks different for each individual student,” she said.

School staff must meet students where they are academically and personally, and if parents are not part of the process, it creates a disconnect, Khuluki said.

All students will be masked at all times when the fall semester kicks off and staff members will need to wear masks whenever in students’ presence.

Thoreau will not always be able to provide the 6-foot social distancing that was required this spring, given that nearly all FCPS students will be returning for indoor classes, but the school also will provide classes in the cafeteria, an outdoor tent and the school’s courtyard, she said.

The courtyard, which has received much support from the school’s PTA, also will be used for other initiatives, such as composting and the Echo Schools program, she said.

“It’s a nice opportunity for students to spend more time outdoors, which is where they can take those masks off and have that little bit of a break,” she said.

Because most Wolftrap Elementary students attend Kilmer Middle School, only a few will see Khuluki again at Thoreau Middle.

Khuluki, who succeeded interim Thoreau principal Sharamaine Williams, spent the first five years of her Fairfax County Public Schools career as a social-studies teacher at McLean High School, then taught the same subject for a year at Kilmer Middle, where she later served for two years as the school’s assessment coach.

After spending a year as acting assistant principal at Camelot Elementary School, she became assistant principal at Wolftrap Elementary in 2011 and one year later was made that school’s principal, a job she has held ever since.

While at Wolftrap, Khuluki has served as co-leader of the James Madison High School pyramid, introducing project-based-learning initiatives and promoting creative and critical thinking, FCPS officials said.

Khuluki received the school system’s 2019 Excellence in Equity Award for increasing the achievement of special-needs students. She also gave a presentation on the “21st Century Digital Approach to Highly Functional Collaborative Teams.”

Originally from Baltimore, she holds a bachelor’s degree in history and secondary education from Marymount University and a master’s in administration and supervision from the University of Virginia.

In her free time, Khuluki enjoys outdoor activities, traveling and spending time with her family.

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