Classes begin Tuesday at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, but new director Peter Steedman has been hard at work since July, introducing new practices and staff training in preparation for the school year. “I’m excited,” he said. “As with anything new, the nerves are there, but you get these nerves every year as a teacher.”

Mr. Steedman has worked in international schools all over the world, specializing in the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. He was recently upper school principal of the Escola Americana de Campinas in Brazil where 80 per cent of the student body was made up of Brazilian nationals. He has also led two Massachusetts schools, including the Sturgis Charter Public School’s west campus in Hyannis.

Summer trainings have included success counseling from the Vermont-based Aloha foundation.

“It focuses on students’ understanding of their choices particularly in times of stress and conflict,” Mr. Steedman said. He also arranged a summertime reintroduction of the classroom management philosophy called Responsive Classroom. The technique focuses on integration of the social emotional aspects of learning and the cognitive ones.

Mr. Steedman said that when he visited the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School last year, it was the school’s daily rituals, especially the all-school morning meeting, that confirmed his sense that this was where he was meant to be.

The new director embraces first-day jitters. — Maria Thibodeau

“That’s what attracted me. This school is so intentional about starting the day,” he said.

A former camp counselor, he said the school felt to him like a revivalist summer camp, a place where communal practices guided children as much as the curriculum does. He said the enthusiasm of the school’s many founders and supporters was another factor.

“It became very clear to me that you have a really committed board who felt passionate about the school,” he said. That enthusiasm goes both ways according to board president Marc Favreau.

“He seemed in a really fundamental way to get the mission of this school which is pretty progressive and project-based and community-based,” he said. “We didn’t hire someone to change the place, but to bring new energy and life and ideas, and he has done that.”

For Mr. Steedman, longevity of the staff was another good sign.

“You have people who have been here 10, 12, 15 years,” he said. “Clearly they felt that the pillars of their community were at the forefront of decision making.”

Though he has lived all over the world and the country, Martha’s Vineyard has been a special place for Mr. Steedman since he first came to the Island in 1995 to visit the woman who would become his wife, Honore. The two met while at graduate school at the Columbia University Teachers College, and she was then a teacher at the Oak Bluffs School. He was about to leave to work at the American School of the Hague, and he stopped by the Island to see her before going to Holland. They spent the day at the beach in Aquinnah.

“It was like you’re in Oak Bluffs and I’m in the Netherlands, but we knew it was serious,” he said. He stayed in Holland and she took a job in Needham, but they eventually reunited in Europe.

“One of our daughters is named Aquinnah because of that,” he said.

Mr. Steedman said his predecessor Robert Moore has been available and involved throughout the transition process. Mr. Moore was the charter school’s only other director and led the school for 20 years.

“One thing he said is, even though the job gets busy, just take time and enjoy the small moments: the morning meeting, the ability to see kindergarteners one moment then walk down the hall and see a twelfth grade math class,” Mr. Steedman said.

Earlier this week, as charter school teachers organized their classrooms and a painter applied a fresh coat of white paint to the school’s front doors, Mr. Steedman’s first day of school preparations included learning some of the school’s songs. Front office manager Alex Taylor, singing from her desk with assistant director Marie Larsen, guided him through one of the simpler ones.

“Everybody oughta kno-ow,” Ms. Taylor sang.

“Everybody oughta kno-ow,” Mr. Steedman and Ms. Larsen repeated.

“What respe-ect is,” Ms. Taylor sang.

They repeated the song for the rest of the school’s five pillars: trust, cooperation, democracy and freedom.

“We sing that one on the first day of school, at the annual meeting, and on the last day,” Ms. Taylor said.

Mr. Steedman leaned forward in his chair. “This is a dream job,” he said. “I hope to be here for as long as they’ll have me.”