Fabulous First Friday at First Lutheran School

Fourth grader Sophia Martinez splashes into a pool of water after sliding down a water jumper during the Fabulous First Friday at First Lutheran School in Glendale on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013. The event is done on the first full week of school. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / September 13, 2013)

Students at First Lutheran School in Glendale celebrated the end of their first week of school with a water slide and snow cones Friday afternoon while Michelle Goetsch was still getting to know students’ names in her new role as principal.

A graduate of California Lutheran University, Goetsch initially set out for a career in finance and worked as a financial adviser for Merrill Lynch. But when her son was diagnosed with autism 17 years ago at age 3, she went back to school to study psychology and education.

“Once you have a child that’s diagnosed with a disability, it shifts your focus,” she said.

She would go on to spend years as a teacher’s assistant in the Conejo Valley Unified School District. She was teaching Sunday school at her church in Thousand Oaks when her pastor suggested to his counterpart at First Lutheran Church that Goetsch would be a good principal at First Lutheran School.

Now she’s overseeing the school, which has 100 students who span from preschool to eighth grade. About 4% of the children have special needs. She is focused on boosting enrollment but keeping class sizes at 11 to 14 students per teacher.

To keep class sizes at a minimum, she plans to host student teachers from California Lutheran University.

“Every child deserves to have [their education] individual and not be put in a box,” she said. “We’re really excited about moving forward.”

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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