I began my teaching career in Auburn, Maine, in the winter of 1994 when a classroom needed to be added due to overcrowding. I was excited to begin my work, although, I had not anticipated working with students in sixth grade. That year was filled with learning lessons for both me and my students. At the end of the year, I was laid off due to significant budget cuts along with ten other teachers in Auburn. Fortunately, I was able to get a job in the neighboring city of Lewiston and taught third grade there for a year. Those two years of teaching made me resilient. I lost my job again the second year due to budget cuts again and was forced to take a job in Auburn as a teacher’s aide in a large substantially separate classroom in a middle school. Mid year, my former principal Donn Marcus called me and again, asked if I would come and start another classroom due to over crowding. My career extended beyond that as a teacher for another two years, bringing me to Sherwood Heights School as a first grade teacher and grade level leader. During that time, I got my beginning taste of leadership as a grade level leader and began my work on my masters degree in educational administration. Over the course of two years, I worked on my degree while teaching first grade and in the summer of 1999, I was hired for my first administrative job!
For the next four years, I worked in a district and schools that I loved. I was an assistant principal for two years and then became the principal for the next two years in Hallowell and Farmingdale, Maine. It was an exciting time for me and I had the good fortune to work with an administrator that mentored me and taught me a lot about leadership and being a principal. During the time I was an administrator, one of our schools was closed due to toxic mold and we worked for a period of time to get both schools combined into one, which later resulted in a new school being built for the two towns. I left the district in 2003 to become a principal in a school closer to my home, having traveled 42 miles one way each day for the four years I worked in that district.
I was principal of Greene Central School for approximately the next six years, seeing the school through a major renovation project that required us to be off site for five months and that took considerable coordination to plan around. During the time, I was also faced with a school that had seen five principals in nine years. The work I did in Greene was some of the most rewarding work I have been fortunate to take part in. I worked with a dynamic team of fellow administrators and central office staff, and I collaborated with staff to move Greene Central forward in many regards, most notably, in the areas of reading, writing and math. We implemented professional learning communities across the district and within my school, grade level teams did incredible work to move learning forward for students. We also implemented a school wide progress monitoring system along with a school wide intervention system for students.
In the late winter of 2009, I was presented with an opportunity that appeared to be one which would allow me to help and support more students and administrators. I was offered a position with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to work as a manager in their Urban District Assistance unit and in light of the work I was doing with my doctoral degree at the time, it was an opportunity that I could not pass up. Sadly, I left my position at Greene Central School just before the April break. It was very difficult to leave a beloved job, let alone a school full of staff and students before the year ended. I continued to support the school’s work remotely through the end of the year as they managed their progress monitoring data and RtI.
My tenure at the Massachusetts DESE was short lived, as I quickly realized that the governmental processes designed to help schools were ones which did not always align with what schools needed. During my time there, I was charged with aiding schools in the large Commissioner’s Districts of Lynn, New Bedford, Lawrence and Boston. Like many urban districts, these folks faced the same challenges others did with lack of funds, poverty, and the need for aligned resources and supports in the schools. While I was able to recognize some of their needs, I was not always “charged” with giving them what they needed. I did have the good fortune to work with a handful of talented individuals who were thoughtful about wanting to help children and those connections made me long for an opportunity to truly help children again. By the winter of 2010, I got my Massachusetts principal license, along with assistant superintendent and superintendent, and I interviewed for an administrative job in Lexington, Massachusetts. I was interviewed in December and nominated in January, with a July 1st start date.
I’m currently in my fifth year as principal at Fiske Elementary School in Lexington. We’re a vibrant, culturally diverse school of approximately 500 students. My school is the district wide site for an autism program known as the ILP (Intensive Learning Program) which supports approximately 26 students that have varying needs. My work is extremely rewarding and I again have the good fortune to work with educators that have been implementing a school wide RtI framework under my leadership and we’ve grown as a school in our use of data to drive instruction and interventions. Additionally, we’ve also worked diligently to support school wide implementation of positive supports to help meet the needs of students behaviorally and socially. I continue to be amazed at the work my staff is willing to do to support students and I consider myself lucky to be a part of it.
Although this year was my 20th year in education, it seems like the journey just started yesterday. I hope that I continue to be fortunate to work with talented educators, supportive community and most importantly, engaged young minds that need adult support.