In one of several leadership changes this summer, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School has promoted one of its own to serve as an assistant principal.
Elliott Bennett, a science teacher at the high school since 2000, has left her pet gecko, phylogenetic tree and tank of goldfish behind, and moved into an office at the front of the school.
The post was left vacant in June when Matthew Malowski took a job as a guidance counselor in the alternative program and the therapeutic support program. Andrew Berry will continue as the other assistant principal.
In her new role, Ms. Bennett will oversee the eleventh and twelfth grades, handling discipline issues and acting as a bridge between the administration and the teaching staff.
A native of Greenwich, Conn., Ms. Bennett, 50, moved to the Island after teaching at Pomfret, a boarding school in Connecticut.
Before coming to the high school in 2000, Ms. Bennett spent a year and a half at the charter school in West Tisbury. She’s taught biology, Island natural history and forensics, a popular class she introduced to the school.
She’s now been in education for more than half her life, but at one time, she had little interest in teaching.
“I was one of those people who said I’d never be a teacher,” she said in her new office this week, recalling the time she spent working for a nonprofit that was helping the California schools with its science curriculum.
It was in advising those teachers how to improve science instruction that she developed a deep appreciation for the profession.
“I was writing all these recommendations and I realized, I have no idea what it’s like to be a teacher,” she said. Growing up, she’d benefitted from strong science teaching, but she realized that being in front of the class was a challenge she knew little about.
It’s also why she wanted to try a leadership role at the high school.
“I can say we should be doing this, and the administration should be doing this, but how can I say that if I don’t know the full picture?” she said.
During her tenure at the high school, Ms. Bennett taught primarily biology, a favorite subject among her students, who naturally want to learn more about the world and their bodies. “Every student can relate to it,” she said. “It’s tangible.”
In her teaching, she tried to maintain a sense of humor and high expectations for her students’ learning.
She also advised the science club and the forensics club.
When the opportunity came to be an assistant principal, Ms. Bennett applied because she wanted to be part of the transition team. The school district hired a new principal earlier this summer.
“I felt I was ready for a new challenge and I really believe in this school and I love this school, and I just wanted to be part of the next wave that brings it forward to the next level,” she said.
Her new boss, incoming principal Gilbert Traverso, is a strong leader who believes in teamwork, she said.
She’d also like to help foster teamwork between teachers, administrators, students and parents.
“We are all on the same team, and if we all work together on the same team, the outcome is so much better,” she said.
Soon she’ll decorate the white walls of her new office with student work. And come fall, she will be one of three family members at the school. Daughter Caley, 17, is an incoming senior, and son Cooper, 14, will be a freshman.