As the Fine Arts Teacher and Drama Director at Fall Mountain Regional High School, Dakota Benedetto has, during her 16-year career in the classroom, sought to create opportunities for her students -- opportunities to explore, to create, to think for themselves and to learn from failure. Dakota believes that real learning requires getting out of our comfort zones, and that schools should strive to create an environment of intellectual risk-taking.  

This year, while Dakota completes the Principal Intern Program at UVEI, she is working with a group of educators and local community members to open the LEAF Charter School in the fall of 2017 in Alstead, NH. They envision a small charter high school with an interdisciplinary curriculum, emphasizing flexibility and hands-on experiences. “The opportunity to shape this new learning community has been wonderful - a chance to help ‘change the educational paradigm,’ as Ken Robinson puts it. How cool is that?” Dakota exclaims. 

If you ever have the good fortune to meet Dakota, you will discover that her interests outside school range from acting to dancing to carpentry. She is proficient in French, is CPR certified, studied architecture at RISD and loves social dancing. Dakota’s inspiration for living a full and varied life comes from words by Albert Einstein:  Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. “I believe that it is the challenge, the putting your hopes and heart on the line, that makes the difference in having successes. After all, how can I ask my students to take chances if I don’t do the same?” Dakota asks.

Dakota, who is a resident of Marlow, NH, is a graduate of Plymouth State College, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art Education.  She went on to receive a Master in Education from Harvard University. 

UVEI Principal interns participated in a mock interview experience that attempted to replicate what a principal might face when interviewing for a first principalship. Twenty education professionals from Vermont and New Hampshire came together to offer interns a look at how an interview committee develops a candidate profile and interview questions, along with the ethical practices and considerations a committee must attend to. The committee was comprised of an assistant superintendent, principals, assistant principals, teachers, paraeducators, school board members, students, and community members. Interns received feedback (think formative assessment) on their interview in order to assist the interns in honing their interviewing skills.

This unique model of supporting aspiring principals allows for a view from both sides of the table -- as the person leading the interviews and the person being interviewed. Through these lenses and in real time, principals interns were able to consider the complex world of interviewing.

Read more ...

Earlier this month a panel of eleven experienced principals gathered at UVEI to answer questions aspiring teachers had about some potentially scary topics.

No, we're not talking about the challenges of classroom management, curriculum or state mandated tests. The frightening topic was finding a job: the application package, interview and hiring process.

Although a lot of advice was specific to education, quite a few helpful nuggets provided good advice for almost anyone seeking a job.

Be Yourself

Jeff Valence, principal at Lyme Elementary School, had one of the most memorable pieces of advice, which might sound trite if the implication were not so important: be yourself. Finding the right workplace is akin to finding a spouse, said Valence. You want the relationship to be lasting. If you present yourself as someone you're not during the interview and you secure the job, it may not be a happy partnership.

Create a Digital Portfolio

Most principals on the panel said that they’d prefer a digital portfolio. Those of us old enough to remember teaching before the digital age will recall that portfolios were often presented during the interview in binder form. Last week’s panel of administrators largely endorsed a digital version. Several noted that the portfolio is a chance to illustrate a candidate’s tech savvy. Try creating a Google site to display work. Keri Gelenian, Rivendell’s principal, said,  “If you do bring a physical portfolio, make sure you have a copy to leave with the committee.”

Stellar Reference Letters

Reference letters should not be generic. A generic-sounding letter is code, suggesting that the applicant is not a great candidate, even though the letter will not necessarily state this explicitly.

Grammar Matters

Does your cover letter or resume contain grammatical errors or silly typos? Prepare to be relegated to the bottom of the pile. Or even worse, to the recycleing bin. In short: enlist a trusted editor or risk rejection without consideration of substance.

Even though it’s only the end of January, jobs are popping up on School Spring. The Newton School in South Strafford is advertising a music teacher position, Hanover High School needs a photography teacher starting in April, and Woodstock Elementary is looking for math teachers.

Have you updated your resume lately?

Commentary by Kristen Downey

Kristen Downey is UVEI’s Associate Director for Teacher Education.  Her other blogs can be found at http://uvei.edu/blog/332-plan-with-the-end-in-mind and http://uvei.edu/blog/324-why-we-forget-and-why-it-matters-to-teachers

You can follow Kristen on Twitter @UVEIconnect