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Inspired Ideas

The Learning Never Stops — a Principal’s Reflections

By Dr. Gerald Paterson, Principal in New Jersey

Animation of sayings for Why I Teach

School Principal Appreciation Day is on May 1 and I must say that I truly feel appreciated each day that I have been a principal in the great state of New Jersey. It is truly a dream job! Seven-time SuperBowl winning quarterback, Tom Brady shared his advice with an elementary student during the pregame SuperBowl LV show and that was find something that you enjoy, work really hard at, and it will never feel like a job.

I’ve never dreaded going to work as a principal, even on the days that I knew were going to be a challenge. In fact, I reflect on those days as moments of growth. I am about to finish my 12th year as a principal that has been with two amazing school districts. I am truly grateful for the students, parents, teachers, support staff, custodial staff, secretarial staff, bus drivers, and administrative colleagues I’ve been fortunate to work with. I have found that I have learned something from each of them which has made me a better principal and more importantly a better person.

Learning as a principal is something I find great joy in. Whether it is from picking up a good book or through my observations and conversations; I am always learning something new.

I have worked for the following principals in my career as an educator: Dr. Grace O’Neill, Mrs. Judy Hamm, Ms. Gay Moceri, Mr. Eugene Porco, Mrs. Betty Jean Wissinger, and Mrs. Suzanne Grosser. Each of these educational leaders were truly dynamic and I was able to learn so much from them. Today, I am fortunate to work with other fine principals in the North Hanover Township School District. Mr. Jason Danley, Mrs. Teri Cioffi, and Mr. Jimmy Alvarezare three of my principal teammates who truly inspire me to be the best principal I can be! We have been through so much together this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic and if it was not for them and our strong bond we would not have been able to pull off having a successful school year.

When I think back to the summer of 2020 there was a tremendous amount of uncertainty surrounding whether or not we would be able to return to school in person for the upcoming September. As we embarked on that summer challenge there was a tremendous amount of unknown. We had to forget about how we would typically prepare for a new school year. We had to roll up our sleeves, devote countless hours, and put our heads together to ensure that our students and staff were able to learn and work in a safe environment. More so, we had to develop an environment that was sustainable and at the same time pivot from an in-person learning environment to a remote learning environment if the COVID-19 outbreak affected our District. The attention to detail while also working in conjunction with the rest of the administrative team was taxing but truly well worth the effort.

Being a principal has its challenges and it is not for everybody and that’s okay. Many principals change careers, switch to other roles in administration, or go back to teaching.

For me, I take great satisfaction in working with students, staff, and parents on a continual basis. Furthermore, I enjoy being a part of a school community and working with others to make that community the best we can be.

In closing, I would like to thank the Tabernacle Township School District and the North Hanover Township School District for allowing me to live my dream of being a principal. I would also like to thank the principals that I have worked for, worked with, and the others who are leading schools across the country. It is truly an honor to be associated with them.

Follow the conversation #SchoolPrincipalsDay and we’d love to hear from you on #WhyITeach. Write your reason for teaching in the white space of the paper (use a fun color or add a design!). Snap a selfie with your printed, completed paper — please no students in the image to maintain their privacy.

Share your picture and your reason for teaching by posting it to Twitter, tagging @McGrawHillK12, and using #WhyITeach!

Dr. Gerald (Jerry) Paterson has been an educator for 24 years. He has taught elementary and middle grade, served as a curriculum supervisor, and is currently the building principal at Clarence B. Lamb Elementary School, in North Hanover Township School District. He is a college professor at Temple University and Holy Family University, both in Philadelphia, PA. He is an avid reader of American and World history, oil painter, and enjoys fishing with his teenage son. Connect with Jerry via Twitter @DrPatersonCBL.

To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.

You can view the McGraw Hill Privacy Policy here. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the values or positioning of McGraw Hill or its sales.

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Resources, ideas, and stories for PreK-12 educators. We focus on educational equity, social and emotional learning, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Be sure to check out The Art of Teaching Project, our guest blogging platform for all educators.

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