EHS principal moves on to next chapter


EHS Principal Dr. Kieres smiles as a volunteer hairdresser shaves her head at the school’s Shave for the Brave event. Photo by Alice Adams.

Devon Helmer and Maddie Hess

This previously ran in the April 2022 print issue.

At the end of the current school year, not only will the Class of 2022 graduate from the halls of Emmaus High School; principal Dr. Kate Kieres will join them. 

In her five years as principal at EHS, Kieres’ time has been anything but ordinary. As a leader, she helped the high school and the East Penn School District as a whole navigate numerous unprecedented events, including the flooding of the school, a transition to block scheduling, and most notably, a pandemic. 

Unparalleled adaptation has been a common theme throughout the course of Kieres’ professional career. After starting off as an English teacher in Easton, Kieres has experienced a lot of movement throughout her career: she traveled to the Palisades School District and then eventually made her way to East Penn. 

When Kieres first received her principal’s certification, she never intended to use it; she simply earned the accolade for the purpose of advanced credits. 

“I had no intention of going into administration at all,” Kieres said. 

Throughout the course of her principal’s internship, which allowed her the opportunity to work with administrators in her building and see what exactly the job position entailed, Kieres’ perspective on the position evolved. In time, Kieres realized the positive opportunities the job could offer her. Upon finishing her internship, Kieres was inspired to apply for assistant Principal positions, coming to EHS as an assistant principal from 2007 to 2011.

Over the course of the following years, Kieres then moved to the Palisades school district, where she first served as a Director of Curriculum Instruction and Assessment and then advanced to the position of assistant superintendent. Also during this time, Kieres earned her superintendent’s letter of eligibility, in addition to her doctorate degree. 

When the job opportunity of EHS principal presented itself, Kieres took it. 

“I live [in Emmaus], and I’ve always loved Emmaus High School,” Kieres said. “I missed being with kids and missed being in school.”

Throughout her time at EHS, a key theme of Kieres’ leadership has been honoring students’ voices. From school walkouts, pressure for reforms in the school system, and various activities, Kieres has maintained her presence as a firm supporter of student affairs. This support can be seen through the way she interacts with different club advisors in the school. 

Jonathan Zolomij, the advisor for The Young Democrats club, is proof of this compassion; throughout the years, she has supported dozens of field trips and out-of-school activities to enhance learning and provide students with unique opportunities.

“I was really devastated to hear that Dr. Kieres is leaving at the end of the year,” Zolomij said. “She has been a real friend to teachers who wanted to find new paths to engage and include students in a real way.” 

Along with aiding clubs and student organizations, Dr. Kieres has been assisting with the language department’s trips abroad: Shannon Fraser, who teaches both French and Spanish in the district, is a lead for the 2022 France Trip.

Originally, the trip was to be held through the school, but, because of COVID-19, all foreign trips were canceled. However, Dr. Kieres was not content to let the trips drop altogether. 

“Dr. Kieres was able to secure permission for us to keep the trips scheduled so long as we made it clear to the students, parents, and guardians that the district is no longer involved with them.” Fraser said.

In addition to honoring the student voice, Dr. Kieres has also spent her career as an advocate for student activities, spending much of her time working alongside Emmaus Athletic Director Rebecca George. 

“Dr. Kieres has a sound understanding of the positive role athletics and activities plays in the lives of young adults,” George said. “She has attended League meetings, has been involved in District XI hearings, and is oftentimes the voice of reason when it comes to athletics in and around the Valley.” 

As Kieres concludes her fifth year as Principal at Emmaus High School, she takes the opportunity to reflect upon critical moments as a leader in the Emmaus community. One of the most notable moments she led the high school through in her career came after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in the form of the National School Walkout that took place at the high school.

Kieres not only fought for the student body’s ability to participate in the walkout, but also opened a dialogue with students that allowed their voices and concerns to be heard.

“We had these after-school sessions where we just, like, invited kids to come and talk about how they felt about what happened in school safety and some of those kinds of things,” Kieres said. “It’s a powerful example in terms of, like, if you invite students into the conversation to talk about something that they’re passionate about, they show up in large numbers and have a lot of great things to say.”

Family has always been a driving influence in Kieres’ life, even inspiring her to choose her career path.

“[My mom] taught in my high school when I was in high school. And my dad was a college professor at Lehigh,” Kieres said. “Having educators in the family spurred me in that direction.” 

Looking toward the future of her career, Kieres’ ultimate goal is to follow in her father’s footsteps, ending up as a professor at the college level. She plans to do some college teaching in education and leadership, in addition to consulting work as she departs from her time as principal. 

“I’m just going to be taking some time to try out some different things and figure out what the next step is,” Kieres said. 

When Kieres helps to officiate her last graduating class this coming June, the day will hold an extra emotional meaning to her. It will not only be her last graduation as principal of EHS, but she will also watch her oldest son, senior Ben Kieres, walk across the stage that very day, allowing them to “graduate” from their respective times at the high school together. 

“Both of us are starting new chapters,” Kieres said. “It’s an interesting time in our family.”