By Kristina Houck
Although Stephan Bering is a fourth-generation, fully trained ice cream chef, he always knew he wanted to work in education.
“I joke I loved education so much that I never left, I just switched sides — even though there are no sides because we’re all in this together,” said Bering, the new principal of Solana Beach School District’s Solana Santa Fe School in Rancho Santa Fe.
Bering, 44, grew up in the beachside town of Kiel, Germany, on top of his family’s ice cream shop, Eis-Meyer. His first job was as an ice cream sales boy.
“When you’re 7, it can’t get much better than that,” said Bering, who replaced former principal Julie Norby after she was promoted to director of instructional services. “I enjoyed free ice cream and the beach all day long.”
In fifth grade Bering moved to California, where his mother is from, after his parents got divorced. For the next 20 years, he studied in the U.S. and spent his summers in Germany.
Bering, who earned a bachelor’s degree in history at UC Santa Barbara and a master’s degree in educational leadership at Cal State East Bay, taught high school history for five years before he transitioned to administration and became vice principal of Livermore High School.
“I always knew that I wanted to be a principal. I love the leadership role of coordinating the whole ship,” Bering said. “It could be my background from my family’s ice cream business.”
With 17 years of education experience, Bering served as an elementary school principal since 2006 at California Distinguished Schools, eight years at Arroyo Seco Elementary School, and most recently at Altamont Creek Elementary, both of Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District in Alameda County.
After his wife accepted a new job in San Diego, Bering began searching for his next position.
“If I didn’t find the right job, I was willing to take up to a year to find the right place,” said Bering, a father of three. “It only took me a week because I found the perfect place.”
After leading campuses with roughly 800 students, Bering now heads a campus with fewer than 400 students and about 25 teachers. He already witnessed how close-knit the school community is when parents emailed him to offer their support after equipment was stolen from the campus twice in the summer.
“I hadn’t even met the parents yet and I already received emails from parents asking how they could support the school,” Bering said. “I feel so blessed to be here. It’s a great community. It’s so supportive.
“This is the model school to me. This is how public education should be everywhere.”
As the new principal, Bering said the theme of this school year is “power of the past, force of the future.” His goal is to continue the culture of excellence at Solana Santa Fe School while the school transitions to the Common Core State Standards in the 2014-15 school year, along with all public schools in California.
“One of my goals is to help the school transition from the old state standards to the new Common Core State Standards, and make sure we have all the resources and training we need so that we can continue to be successful,” Bering said. “This is such a strong school, all around. We want to continue to be that strong school in the future.”