Kim Hilgers is the new kid on the block at Tempe’s McClintock High School.
At her first pep assembly, she learned the traditional “stomp,” cheered the school’s football players and even sported a T-shirt that read “Beat the Buffs,” a reference to the school’s cross-town rival: the Tempe High School Buffaloes.
All in a day’s work for the school’s newest principal.
Hilgers, who’s played the role of assistant principal to several Tempe Union High School District schools for more than a decade — most recently at Desert Vista High School — said the move has been gratifying and exciting. It’s her first job as head principal of a school.
“I love coming to work every day — it just feels positive,” Hilgers said. “It’s really rejuvenating and fun — the kids are friendly every single day.”
One student even offered to spray-paint Hilgers’ blonde hair McClintock blue and red Friday morning for the football game.
She politely declined with a laugh.
As she took in the scene of the school’s first pep assembly, she exclaimed “Isn’t this fabulous?” over her shoulder to other teachers.
The smaller school of about 1,800 — compared to Desert Vista’s 3,000 students — is a welcome change for Hilgers.
“I think the community of Tempe is extremely supportive,” she said.
She’s also excited about working in a school that already has strong traditions established.
“I haven’t seen this much school spirit in 25 years,” Hilgers said during the assembly. “It just gives me a sense of pride.”
In the midst of settling into a routine at the school, she’s also had to adjust to the McClintock-Tempe High rivalry that dates back more than 40 years.
She used to be on the other side. For eight years, Hilgers was a business teacher at Tempe High.
On Thursday, Tempe High principal Mark Yslas sent her a bouquet of blue-and-white balloons and a T-shirt that said “The Buffs unplug the Chargers.”
Hilgers sent Yslas a Chargers license plate cover in return.
She wants to assimilate into the culture of McClintock, but she says she still has some of her own ideas. “You bring in some of your values . . . (but) you do those things slowly,” she said.