Bonsack Elementary School opened the 2018- 2019 school year with Leanne Leftwich as the new principal.
She had been serving as assistant principal at Herman L. Horn Elementary for the past two years until she was appointed to her new position by the Roanoke County School Board at a meeting in May. She is only the third principal at Bonsack. Deedie Kagey was the first principal when the school was completed in 1999, followed by Melissa Jones whose family has relocated.
Leftwich joined Roanoke County Schools in 2007 as a teacher at Herman L. Horn where she taught first and fourth grades. In 2016 she became assistant principal. She earned her bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, a church college affiliated with the Nazarene Church. Several of her friends and family members had attended there. Her degree enabled her to teach both social studies and science through the eighth grade. When she began college, her goal was to teach music education in middle and high school; however, in her junior year she decided that path was not for her and that elementary education was “a better fit.”
She went on to receive her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Radford University. She has taught for a total of 21 years, with two years now in administration. She began her teaching career in Waynesboro, where she taught kindergarten, first, and third grades, and then moved back here about 10 years ago.
Leftwich is originally from the Vinton area, attended Herman L. Horn (then known as East Vinton) and William Byrd Junior High, moving to Augusta County in eighth grade. She graduated from Stuarts Draft High School. She said that she wanted to become a teacher “to make a difference and to make sure kids enjoyed school.”
After several years in the classroom, she decided she was ready for something different. She believed she would be able to make a bigger impact as an administrator dealing with hundreds of children rather than in a classroom of 25 or so, and also have more of an impact on the community. As an administrator she wanted teachers to feel supported in order to do “what’s best for kids.” Leftwich says that when several administrative positions opened up in the county this spring she was thrilled to be able to stay in the Vinton area in a school which feeds into William Byrd Middle and High Schools.
She and her family live in Mount Pleasant. Her husband Robert works with the Botetourt County Sheriff ’s Office. Their blended family has two sons, one in 8th grade at WBMS, and one who has graduated. Leftwich is active in the Eastgate Church of the Nazarene and supportive of the Mount Pleasant Recreation Club where their son plays sports. Leftwich says that she will miss the staff at Herman L. Horn who “loved their students so much and invested their time in the kids.” She says she considered the staff “to be family.”
She notes that BES is known for its excellent academic reputation, strong test scores, and its warm, open, and caring teachers who are ready to introduce new ideas. The Bonsack community is known to be very supportive of the school as well. Her plans for the upcoming school year involve building relationships with the BES students and teachers, encouraging teachers “to be innovative and try out new ideas.” She hopes to make an impact on the community and make them feel welcome at Bonsack Elementary as “a school they can be proud of.”
In the 1990s, Bonsack was built on land formerly owned by Crumpacker Orchards in response to a population explosion in the eastern end of Roanoke County, southern Botetourt County, and the Route 460 corridor. At one point a joint elementary school with Botetourt County was under discussion. The school was named for the historic community where it stands. Roland E. Cook Elementary in Vinton closed when Bonsack opened with students divided between Herman L. Horn and Bonsack. A new addition was completed in 2006, adding more classrooms. The school is fortunate to have three playgrounds for students— one for preschool and two for older students. This year about 360 students will be enrolled at BES, served by a staff of about 60. Penny Slusher continues as school secretary/bookkeeper. She has been with Bonsack since the school opened and with Roland E. Cook before that. The Bonsack PTA organization has co-presidents this year— Sara Bilthuis and Kyndal Smith.
“The staff is committed to providing each child the opportunity to learn in a safe, happy environment,” Leftwich said in a letter to parents welcoming them to the new school year and urging them to get involved in their child’s education. “There is a direct relationship between parent involvement and high achievement.”
Her advice for students, “We want to challenge each student to put forth his or her best effort. Set aside time to do homework each day. Read for a few minutes. Get some physical exercise. Participate in a sport or recreational activity. Eat a good breakfast. Follow a reasonable bedtime schedule and get enough rest. View some TV but balance it with other activities. Attend school regularly. Be on time. Establishing patterns such as these helps make you the best student you can be and prepares you for life.”