Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science and French, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, and a master’s degree in Spanish, Middlebury College, Middlebury Vermont
Resume: Teaching positions in Ithaca, New York, and Bedford and Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, prior to moving to Evansville in 2005; Government and French teacher, Signature School, 2008-2012; executive director and principal, Signature School, 2012-present.
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
Family: Husband David and three adult children, James, Allie, and Katherine
It’s an interesting time to be an educator — with new safety guidelines and criteria amidst COVID-19, Signature School Executive Director and Principal Jean Hitchcock says she feels lucky to have the students, staff, and faculty of Sig School around her.
“What’s great about Signature School is our sense of community. This is just a blip for us,” she says. “I feel like we have our plan in place. We know there’s going to be twists and turns along the way, but we’re poised to handle those as we go.”
Despite the uncertain times, Hitchcock and her staff are excited to be back in the classroom, supporting students and utilizing the new expansion that Signature School opened in January. Sitting at the corner of Main and Sixth streets, the Robert L. Koch II Center for the Arts and Sciences has allowed Signature School to accept more students, have a large assembly space, and open up more science classes with a new lab space.
“The space is transformative,” says Hitchcock. “I know the power of education; everyone here does. To say it is life changing is no overstatement, so having the ability to take kids off the waiting list is huge.”
Over the years, Sig School has earned countless accolades. How do you continue to build on those successes each year?
I always appreciate those recognitions because they are a validation of everyone. That goes all the way to the top, from our board president Bob Koch to the teachers, the staff, and the kids.
In terms of the future, I think I focus less on getting those awards. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing, keep our eyes on excellence, and giving that support to every single child to reach his or her potential. As long as we’re doing that, we’re OK.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about Sig School?
I get asked all the time how much tuition we charge. I think not everyone may realize we are completely open admission. You have to be an Indiana resident and that’s it.
We are a public school. I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions. We have students from a very wide range of backgrounds, socioeconomic backgrounds, religious backgrounds. We have quite a bit of diversity and we wouldn’t have it any other way. But I think there’s a misconception there.
Another misconception out there is we get about $4,000 less per student from the state than neighboring schools, so we always are fundraising. That’s why I think it’s great to have a very good board and foundation board, who is taking stewardship of that. Any money we have goes into the classroom — that’s really where we try to put it.
What drives you every day?
You do feel an energy when you come in and see the students. I think you can’t be doing this job if you don’t really feel that. When I see them, I get a real charge. I think that this is really what it’s all about.
And I have to say, I work with a great faculty and staff. In teaching when you are surrounded by great people, it makes you want to do more. There’s an energy you feel when everyone is on the same page.