From analyzing orange juice to becoming an educator, Prince William Co. principal wins state honor

She started as a food chemist before switching careers, now this Prince William County educator has been recognized as Virginia’s outstanding high school principal.

The Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals named Osbourn Park High School Principal Lisamarie Kane the 2024 Outstanding High School Principal of Virginia.

photo of hs principal
The Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals named Osbourn Park High School Principal Lisamarie Kane the 2024 Outstanding High School Principal of Virginia. (Courtesy Prince William County schools)

Before pivoting to education, Kane worked as a food chemist for a citrus processing company in Lakeland, Florida, after graduating from the University of Florida.

Part of her job involved working with technicians and training them on different lab techniques. But what she most enjoyed about the role was teaching them how to analyze orange juice.

She watched as the techs evolved from not knowing how to do something, to learning to do it so well that they were able to teach the skill to someone else.

As principal of the Manassas school, Kane is bringing that same passion and attention.

“There was a special joy there for me,” Kane said. “And that really is what motivated me to get into education.”

Kane considered teaching as a career path when she was younger, but was very passionate about science when she started college. That prompted her to pursue a STEM career.

She worked as a chemist for about five years, and then went through a career-switcher program. Kane became a teacher in Florida and then moved to Virginia, where she has spent 16 years working in Virginia’s second-largest school district.

After 10 years of teaching chemistry and biology, she transitioned into administration.

“The only reason why I went into administration was because I had people along the way, along my career, who really nudged me in that direction or saw something in me where they felt compelled to say, ‘Hey, you need to look at leadership or you need to go into administration,'” Kane said.

One of those was a principal who inspired her by exemplifying how to create a school culture. On the first day teachers returned to school after summer break, he stood at the door, greeted every teacher by name and ensured they knew they were appreciated, she said.

A different principal revealed the importance of eliminating challenges for students and making sure they’re equipped to be successful.

“When a student didn’t think they could do something, and then they did it and they did it well, and you could just see their joy, that’s reaffirming to me,” Kane said. “That happens here every single day.”

Kane’s approach is that no child is “at risk,” rather all are “at promise.”

“We don’t get to pick the students that we have,” Kane said, adding that educators are obligated to teach the students that “walk in our doors every day” — all 2,700 Osbourn Park High School students.

“They come in with all sorts of invisible baggage, things that are going on at home, their academic levels, their dreams. There’s just a million other things that are going on in this human that walks through our door every day,” she said.

Kane also wants to make sure that in addition to having everything teachers need to support their classes, she’s empowering school staff to achieve their professional goals.

Recently, Kane said last year’s school nurse is now a fully certified school counselor, and another staff member who was the security assistant is now the registrar.

The school’s vision, Kane said, is “empowering all to be future-ready together.”

“Future ready is wherever you want to go, we’re going to help get you on a path and make sure that you’re ready for that next step,” Kane said.

A community member nominated Kane for the award, and since she found out she won, former teachers and students have emphasized that she deserves the honor.

But Kane’s focus remains on supporting the students and staff every day.

“I do feel really blessed to be here,” Kane said. “Our staff is just incredible. And I know they work hard for our kids every day.”

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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