Andrew Leopold, the new superintendent in the Hempfield Area School District, began his career as a U.S. and world history teacher.
He had always been interested in history, and, as a youth, saw it being made firsthand in his Homestead neighborhood in the changes wrought by the decline of the steel industry.
"I remember when the mills boomed, and you could not cross the High Level Bridge without seeing the sky glow from steel being poured," Mr. Leopold, 41, recalled.
"Then I remember the entire area being a rust belt when I graduated high school. I saw the direct impact on a lot of my friends' families' lives."
He played football at Steel Valley High School and at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which influenced his career direction.
"I realized I loved to be around people and wanted to help them through teaching and also by coaching football and baseball," he said.
Following college, he taught social studies and coached sports at Indiana Senior High School in Indiana County and then at Gateway Middle School in Monroeville. In 2001, he became principal at the middle school.
He left that district in 2007 to become assistant superintendent for secondary education at Hempfield Area.
In July, the Hempfield Area school board promoted him from assistant superintendent to superintendent to succeed the retiring Terry Foriska. He received a five-year contract, through Sept. 30, 2016, at an annual salary of $122,500.
He is completing his doctoral dissertation through the University of Pittsburgh.
Until Tim Kotch comes to Hempfield Area to be assistant superintendent, Mr. Leopold, of Murrysville, will handle the duties of assistant superintendent and superintendent, overseeing the district's three middle schools, its high school and the alternative education program.
As superintendent, his goals are to increase student achievement and broaden the overall experience students gain in the district.
He wants them not only to be academically proficient but also "well-rounded citizens as they embark on their next endeavor, whether it be college, work or trade school," he said.
The past also beckons to him as a historian.
Crossing the Homestead Grays Bridge now, he is greeted by the glow from the movie marquee, shops and restaurants, which is almost as welcoming as that from the steel mills of his childhood.
"You can see the revitalization with the Waterfront complex," he said. "I'm proud of how Homestead has started bouncing back."
SNAPSHOT: ANDREW LEOPOLD
Murrysville; born and raised in Homestead
Superintendent of Hempfield Area School District
Bachelor's degree, Indiana University of Pennsylvania; master's degree, Duquesne University; coursework completed and dissertation in progress for doctorate, University of Pittsburgh
Wife, Alicia; children, Nathan, 12, Nicholas, 11, and Brooke, 9
WHAT'S IMPORTANT TO YOU:
Faith, family and education
High school social studies teacher at Indiana Senior High School in Indiana
Reading about history and visiting historic landmarks; working out; helping coach my kids in various sports
Potato chips and dip
FAVORITE SPOT IN THE WORLD:
Isle of Capri, off the coast of Naples, Italy
MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT:
Misplacing all of my student rosters 10 minutes before school started on my first day of teaching. The assistant principal had to print another set of rosters and commented to me in front of a room full of seniors, "Quite an inauspicious start to your career. I hope it gets better from here!"
PROUDEST MOMENT SO FAR:
Watching the miracle of the births of my children
Lead and support every employee in the Hempfield Area School District to empower and enable them to positively impact the lives of the children we serve.
WHAT'S ON YOUR BUCKET LIST?
To attend a Super Bowl in which the Steelers beat the Cowboys! To travel with my family to all 50 states of this great nation. Go skydiving.