Assistant principal takes on challenge of starting from scratch
by Jack Deming
Aug 25, 2014 | 2469 views | 0 0 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LeeAnn Monroe
LeeAnn Monroe
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WHITINGHAM- For new Twin Valley Middle/High School assistant principal LeeAnn Monroe, returning to Vermont presented her with what she describes as the “ideal situation,” one where she gets to help build a new school from scratch. This is an opportunity that not many first-year administrators get, and the possibilities are not lost on her.

“You have a new building, a new principal, and a new superintendent, and a bunch of new staff,” said Monroe, “so you’re sort of starting from scratch. There’s also a great infrastructure, great teachers, and a community really invested in the school, but it’s also a fresh start and a new beginning, so it’s an opportunity of a lifetime.”

Monroe spent the last 12 years in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia teaching sixth-grade science, as well as biology, ecology, forensic science, physiology, and anatomy at the high school level. She began her teaching career at a preschool in Portsmouth, NH, after earning a zoology degree from the University of New Hampshire. Monroe didn’t want to spend her life “working in a lab,” and found that she enjoyed teaching. While teaching high school in Virginia, she earned her administrative degree from James Madison University, was married, and had a daughter, and while she is a native of Barre, she is returning to the southern part of her home state for her first position as a school administrator.

Monroe comes to Twin Valley at a period of great change, and having been a teacher up until this year, she believes her experience will help her to make those transitions and changes easier for the staff at TVMHS, as well as build trust. “I still have that teacher’s perspective,” said Monroe. “So in this new role I’ll be able to help the teachers lead students, and bridge the gap. We’re all new here, and I could envision being a teacher and being nervous about a whole new administration, so part of my job is building trust. If they trust me, they can focus on the classroom and their students and on building a program. With that, you’re also combining a middle school and a high school here so it’s also about making this one unified school.”

If there is a culture that Monroe wants to bring to her new school it is one of positivity, where overcoming challenges and small achievements are both met with celebration, and with the school community at Twin Valley, she doesn’t feel this will be a tough task. To Monroe, positivity comes from an environment of collaboration, with students supporting each other while holding themselves to high standards.

The relationship between an administrator and the students she/he is responsible for is one that Monroe believes must be rooted in respect. “If I want them to achieve and be successful in school they need to be respectful of adults around them and each other, so we can create a climate that’s collaborative and positive,” said Monroe. “They can expect the same respect from me. Students are people, teachers are people, and administrators are people, and I don’t expect anyone to be perfect, I expect mistakes and that’s OK, as long as you learn and move on from them. I will give you as much autonomy as you are earning and deserving by being respectful to me and those around you.”

Monroe intends to be a visible resource to both parents and students. While she describes herself as a people-pleaser by nature, she understands that her decisions may not always be ones a parent agrees with, but they will always be rooted in what she believes to be the best interest of the student and their ability to succeed. “I’m an open book,” said Monroe. “I’m all about conversation so they can expect me to be visible. I’m not going to be sitting in my office typing with my back to the door, I’m going to be out and about, because those relationships are important. This is such a small community and I would be remiss to ignore that and not focus on parents as huge supporters of the school’s vision.” Monroe also said it won’t be surprising to see her at school events as she and her family have settled in Wilmington.

If there is one trait Monroe points to that she feels will contribute to a smoother transition in this whirlwind of change, it’s consistency. Working with teachers, Monroe believes that needs assessments will require focus, and while there will be room for a lot of potential changes, she feels the school should not take too broad an approach and risk nothing being accomplished. For Monroe, consistency also means just being there in any capacity needed. “The impression I have is that there has not been a lot of consistency in the school,” said Monroe. “If you look at the number of principals, superintendents, policies, school names and locations, there have been inconsistencies. Consistency will be important for parents, teachers, and students and that’s not always easy, but it comes from having a strong trust.”
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