Busy as a bee: Westbrook principal deeply involved with her school and the community

It isn't hard to find Danielle Crandall, principal of the Westbrook School for Young Learners in Mount Prospect.

You might find her meeting the buses as they drop off or pick up the children.

Or you might see her in one of the classrooms reading to students.

Students are welcome in her office as well. There are books and toys for the children to enjoy. There is even a large toy giraffe, a gift from Danielle's grandmother, which Crandall once bestowed upon her own children, who are now young learners in their own right.

Crandall has taken her experiences as a student and a teacher in Park Ridge and as assistant principal at Lions Park School in Mount Prospect and applied them to her post as principal at Westbrook, where she was hired in 2021.

  Danielle Crandall, principal at Westbrook School for Young Learners in Mount Prospect, says hello to first-grade student Lincoln Kahney and checks on his progress of a classroom assignment. Paul Valade/

Her efforts have earned her the distinction of being honored at the Illinois State Board of Education's 49th annual Those Who Excel & Teacher of the Year Awards Banquet on May 20.

She will receive an award for Meritorious Service in the Admin Professional category.

Westbrook is the home of the Bees, and there is no busier bee than the principal.

Special education teacher Amanda Steegmueller said Crandall has made a huge difference in the relatively short time she has been at Westbrook.

“I think we all think that we're very lucky to have her here as our principal. Not everybody loves their job all the time. But she seems to love her job all of the time. And that definitely permeates and makes us love our job more as well,” she said.

Prior to joining Mount Prospect School District 57, Crandall was a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher in Park Ridge-Niles School District 64.

Crandall grew up in Park Ridge and still lives there.

She said she learned a lot from Lions Park Principal Katie Kelly, who formerly was principal at Field Elementary School in Park Ridge.

  Danielle Crandall, principal at Westbrook School for Young Learners in Mount Prospect. Paul Valade/

Being a teacher, Crandall said, helped her in her role as principal.

“I have a big heart for the teachers, and I never want to lose what it feels like to be a teacher in the classroom, because it's one of the hardest jobs out there.”

When Crandall was chosen as principal, District 57 Superintendent Mary Gorr called Crandall the perfect candidate, given her classroom and administrative experience, as well as her efforts to connect with students and build partnerships with families.

At the time, Crandall said her goal was to establish a “warm, nurturing learning environment for students, families and staff, by building a strong school community and continually improving instructional practices.”

Steegmueller said Crandall is an expert at building staff morale.

  Westbrook School principal Danielle Crandall has several giraffe items in her office at the Mount Prospect school. Paul Valade/

“She is so supportive. She doesn't hesitate to do anything she can to try and make it a more positive experience,” she said.

But it is her special bond with the children that stands out.

“I love greeting the kids in the morning,” she said. “I like to be present, all over the place, so the kids can say, 'Hi, Mrs. Crandall' and wave, and I can check in with them on their day and just get to know the parents too.”

The children also ask her a lot about her own children. She and her husband, Christopher Crandall, who is the dean of culture at Aptakisic Junior High School in Buffalo Grove, have two children, Audrey, 11, and Ally, 9.

Crandall especially loves reading in the classroom. She said this year, “Our theme for the kids has been courage, and what does it mean to have courage and be brave. And so we pick children's literature that go along with that theme.”

  Danielle Crandall, principal at Westbrook School for Young Learners, talks about working with the 457 students at the Mount Prospect school. Paul Valade/

Although the job has its challenging moments, “The kids make it totally worthwhile. So anytime I'm stuck at my desk and have a hard decision, I go in the classrooms for a little bit and work with the kids. It really centers you.

“They have no filter, for the most part. They say what they think. They wear their emotions on their sleeve. And it's just so fun to watch them learn. At this stage of development, they're learning and growing so much.”

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