Q&A With Principal Golla


Daisy Lehman

Principal Golla stands at the front doors greeting students every morning as the enter the building.

What is your favorite food? 

I’m probably a pizza guy…I love to look for different types of pizza…So I would say it’s a hand toss style. In town actually, I like Loli’s pizza. We are sausage and mushroom family almost always. 

What did you think you wanted your profession to be when you’re in high school?

I was always drawn to education. I grew up in a really small town and teachers were the only professionals that I knew and was familiar with. As I was growing up, I was not a great student. Probably at times, not even a great human being. If I look back, the right teachers and the right coaches made a big difference for me. Now, when I went to college, I was in and out of education, changed majors a number of times. I think I was always nervous about being in front of a classroom of students being in front of people public speaking so I think I was afraid of it a bit but I just always kept getting drawn back. So that has been my destination and really [I] never looked back…I’ve always wanted to stay in education.

How did you end up at Wauwatosa West? 

I started as a middle school teacher in the Elmbrook school district at Pilgrim Park Middle School. I was there for five years. I then transitioned to the high school and was a high school social studies teacher at Brookfield East. My first administrative job was the athletic and activities director. I was [the athletic and activities director] at Brookfield East for about six years and then accepted the principal job Menomonee Falls where I served as a high school principal for four years. I moved to the district office role as Director of Curriculum and learning for two years and then was the superintendent in Menomonee Falls for four years. Then I [I] move[d] back to the site level to be the principal here at Wauwatosa West, which is a very unique move…but it feels really good.

Why did you make the move from Superintendent to Principal? 

It was to be closer to students. I mean, if you look at… the world post pandemic, you see a ton of people who have just moved [jobs]. I was part of that. I just did a lot of reflection. Every role I’ve had I’ve loved and I’m proud of all the work I’ve done and at the Superintendent level you get to impact everything. And I [got] to work with students or teachers at all levels. And that’s really amazing work to do. But at the [principal]  level, the connection [with] students and teachers is just more direct. I haven’t known students. I would have some interactions as superintendent, but I’ve already had the chance to…get to know students better, go to events, and know their story. Being a superintendent during COVID [with] politics around the schools [was] really difficult. And as I started to reflect on what I wanted, it was [that] I want to be in a place where I can have impact. I want] to be at a place where I can collaborate, and I really want to be in a place where I have joy. 

Where did you go to college and what did you major in?

My primary college was University of Wisconsin Lacrosse. I was there for five years. I ran cross country and track in college, about lacrosse. [When] my eligibility was finished, I was married at that point. My wife had graduated as a nurse and she got a job in Stevens Point. So I transferred and actually graduated from Stevens Point. When I graduated I had a major in History and Political Science [and I] actually went back and got certified to teach. I have a lot of credits, I would not advise the students to take the path [because] I was there for a long time. My problem was when it was time to register for classes, it was like I was shopping. I have like 12 credits of art history [but] I’ve never taught art history. [But] I wouldn’t advise that because I also borrowed that money and I came up with a lot of debt. 

What is your favorite type of music? 

Alternative country. Well, like sort of that right cross between rock and roll and country music. A band you wouldn’t know or most people don’t remember was Uncle Tupelo. I just happened to sit down [at their concert] when I was in college. I didn’t even know what alternative country was. I didn’t even know who they were. I just by chance got to go to that concert. And it just blew my mind to see electric guitars with fiddles. Like, wow. That’s just a great memory and a great band that I liked. And I really want to give a shout out to Bob Dylan. I’ve listened to Bob Dylan my whole life. My son’s name is “Dylan” because of Bob Dylan.

Where has been your favorite place to travel?

I love going out West. I love the mountains. I really love fly fishing, it’s a passion of mine. Anytime I can get out West with my family, my boys and go fly fishing, is great. I traveled overseas for the first time ever this summer. I went to Sicily because my son is an architecture student and he was there for eight weeks. That was amazing. Like I’m really dying to go back there. 

What is the first thing you do when you get home from work?

For his sake and mine, I let my dog out. [We] reconnect and talk about our days. Willie is a great listener and he seems to appreciate the time together. 

What is one junk food that you cannot resist?

 Oh my gosh. It’s hard for me to say that [but] I would say cheese curds. I love anything that I shouldn’t eat. I love it all. I think a Cafe Hollander has a good cheese curd that isn’t too greasy 

Tell us about your family who are the people closest to you?

My wife was my prom date. So that’s why I always remind students when prom is coming up that they should choose carefully. We have two boys. My oldest son Dylan is a special education teacher at Brookfield East. Jackson is a senior at University of Minnesota and will graduate in December as an architect. My oldest son Dylan married his high school sweetheart from Brookfield East. Which makes me a really, I think, a really young grandpa. So we have [a granddaughter] in our life too who I love to spend time with.

Tell us more about your motorcycle hobby. We’ve heard you like to race them. How did that start? 

My mom would not let me buy a motorcycle in high school. And then I got married just out of college and my wife did not want me to get a motorcycle. And finally about eight years ago I just asked [my wife], “If I bought a motorcycle, how mad would you be?’ She told me she wouldn’t be mad. I like riding and I like working on them. I have to teach myself by watching YouTube. I’ve had the motorcycle [for] a few years, it’s an old from a  vintage motorcycle shop. And I went to one and they had vintage racing going on in Elkhart Lake. I started to ask people about it. So I bought an old motorcycle that wasn’t running. I built a racer and for about the last four years I raced. Yeah, it’s kind of irresponsible. But it just clears my mind. I used to compete as a runner and so competing in racing kind of helps me. I’m very much an adrenaline junkie. I’ll be nervous about [the] risk as I’m going to the race and then in the race you’re trying to find a way to pass someone [and the risk] doesn’t even cross your mind necessarily. I race safely but I just do things that I probably surprised myself that I would have done. It’s fun. What’s funny too is my wife would have never wanted me to get a motorcycle. [but] she’s in my pit, helps me get ready to race, [and] she’s actually gotten into it. She was competitive herself and so it’s kind of funny. I mentioned I like flying fish and it’s hard to do that around here. So this is something that I can work on here. I’ve got my garage. It’s awesome.

What is one goal you hope to accomplish within your first year at West? 

The number one priority has to be to stop the fighting and feel not only safe, but just emotionally safe. This has to be something that we can work hard [on]. We can have high standards for academic achievement. It also should be a place that students can’t wait to come into. Everyday [should] be a great day. So my goal is to make this school that you [all] deserve.