We want to share good news about education! MASSP is turning the spotlight on members who are making an impact in their school, district and community. Spotlighted members exemplify the mission of the MASSP: To advance learning through educational leadership.
Adam Nelson, Principal, Yale Junior High School
How long have you worked in education?
I served 9 years teaching Science at Croswell-Lexington High School, 5 years as the Assistant Principal at Yale High School, and currently I am in my 3rd year as the Principal of Yale Junior High School. Overall, this is my 17th year in education.
How long have you been a Principal?
This is my 3rd year as a Principal (8th if you count Assistant Principal)
Give us a few personal details.
I love spending time with my wonderful wife and two children, getting together with friends, being in nature and staying physically active.
What do you most value about your MASSP membership?
MASSP is an excellent organization for professional collaboration and support. The MASSP staff has the knowledge to guide its members, and they make themselves available to help out. Professional development, conferences, online resources, legal updates and digital learning opportunities always remain current and relevant. Simply stated, I have become a better educational leader because of MASSP!
What do you find most challenging about your job?
A formidable challenge, although also an exciting part of the job, is to find the balance between maintaining high quality and introducing new initiatives in a way that staff can successfully adopt. It is important to observe and evaluate the instruction, programs and services that we already offer in our school; this process includes gathering feedback from staff, supporting staff where necessary, making time for collaboration and continuing to improve on our practices. As an example, mental health support is becoming increasingly important. Our school uses peer mentoring programs, a superb counseling and social work team, the involvement of families, staff input and community resources to address mental health. At the same time, we are constantly discussing ways to improve our practices.
It is equally important to learn new ideas and work them into our systems in a way that is meaningful to students. It can feel overwhelming to both implement new ideas and new state mandates, but we try to mesh the two when possible to best serve our students. For example, we have taken the theme of growth data and evolved it into a system to better analyze student performance related to the most testable and transferable state standards. In turn, this pedagogical shift is helping us to improve curriculum and differentiate for a variety of learners. Our system is by no means perfect, but it is having a positive impact in the classroom; we will continue to improve in this area, but I like the early phases.
For the successful balance of quality control and introducing meaningful new ideas, it truly takes a team effort. I am fortunate to work with an amazing staff that always seems to rise to the occasion. They are open, honest and maintain a positive outlook. Once we introduce a new idea, it is so cool to watch the experts take over and make it their own. As new ideas become ingrained in our school, the process of quality control again takes over. And so the cycle continues. Yet it is an important cycle that relies on many moving parts to remain successful.
What is most rewarding about your job?
As a building leader, create routines to prioritize proactive communication with all members of the school community. Principals dip their toes in a wide range of activities throughout a typical school day. We are instructional leaders, facilities managers, counselors, schedulers, pioneers, budgeters, public speakers and the list goes on. Along with that long list of responsibilities comes a long list of important team members to help drive our schools forward. Taking time to communicate and collaborate with people is vital to school success. People feel included in the educational process when they have an active role in progress. Quality control is an important part of what principals do; communication affords us opportunities to monitor programs and services, follow up, be on the same page before a meeting, learn more about student needs and get to know our staff members on a personal level. I feel that face to face contact is best if possible, but oftentimes digital or phone contacts can also serve the purpose of effective and proactive communication. Social media is a powerful tool that should be used in some capacity. Correspondence, whether it be spoken or digital, provides us with the necessary information to take appropriate action if improvements should be made.
Staff members and parents might not always like what we have to say, but they do appreciate honest and upfront communication. It is important to let a teacher know if they are struggling to effectively engage students. It is important to discuss expectations with custodians, media center specialists and community organizations that work with our students. It is important to inform a parent, in a timely manner, that their son’s disruptive behavior is putting him at-risk of failing classes. Positive communication is also a proactive strategy. Stop into that same teacher’s room and let them know that they delivered an engaging lesson. Find that custodian and let he or she know how nice the gym looked during an awards ceremony. Call the home of that struggling student to tell the parent that their son has gone an entire marking period without throwing a spitball and that he passed every class with a C or better. Positive communication is “money in the bank.” In the event that a tough conversation must happen, prior relationship-building will be sure to help. We all like to feel included, and proactive communication creates a participatory environment within our school communities.
Oh, and one more thing...always keep our Superintendents in the loop with any hot topic concerns!
To read about other MASSP members in the Spotlight, please visit massp.com/member-spotlight.
Questions? Please contact Ryan Cayce at firstname.lastname@example.org.