She’s Just #Super

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CAREER: PRINCIPAL/SUPERINTENDENT

Name: Noelle Short

Age: 34

College & major: Hamilton College ’05 – Major: Government; Minor: Environmental Studies

Graduate school & concentration (if applicable): Master of Arts in English from Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English; working on a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Leadership from SUNY Plattsburgh – anticipated completion in May 2017.

Previous jobs: My early work days were spent mowing lawns, chambermaiding, babysitting, scooping/twirling ice cream, and working at a general store. My first job out of college was Outdoor/Sports Writer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise; After two years at the paper I decided to go to pursue my graduate degree at Middlebury’s Bread Loaf School of English during the summer (5 summers). Eventually I moved on to teaching 7-12 grade English Language Arts Teacher at Long Lake Central School.

Current occupation: Acting Principal/Superintendent at Long Lake Central School

Why did you choose a career in education? I love to learn and I love working with people, particularly kids. My family is filled with educators and social workers, so it was always a natural career path for me to follow because so many important people in my life have made education and helping people the heart and soul of their livelihoods. I also value the fact that if you work in a school you will never have the same day twice, and your thoughts (and often your feet) are in motion all day long. A school day is filled with so many unexpected turns that you have no choice but to be at your creative best. You’re called upon to be the designer of the day in your classroom and to be the caretaker of each student’s educational experience, which reaches far beyond the school day.

What was your college experience like, and how did it prepare you for your career? I’ve been lucky. At the undergraduate and graduate levels I’ve had experiences where the classes are small, the people come from all different walks of life, and the professors care more than you can even imagine. This style of learning served me well because I was not a student who left high school having a clue what I wanted to do, or to be honest, even left college having a clue what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to learn and if I took enough classes that something would come to me as a good idea for a career. Like most things in my life, I took the scenic route to getting to where I am today, but I think that’s how I got to a place where I am happiest. It’s hard to sum up exactly what my experiences have been like, but I think I’d say they allowed me to explore, learn, and discover what inspires me, excites me, and rewards me. I also think they’ve allowed me to immerse in communities that have offered me the chance to meet some of my best friends, educators, colleagues, and mentors.  

What steps do you have to take to become teacher (and eventually an administrator)? You have to start by deciding that education is truly the work you want to commit to because it is not a profession for the faint of heart. It’s incredibly rewarding work, but it’s a lot of hours, thinking on your feet, and building things from scratch without a lot of accolades attached to your work. The typical portrait of a teacher’s schedule (summers off, 8 a.m.- 3 p.m., Monday-Friday) is not an accurate depiction of the amount of time a typical teacher puts into their job. You don’t punch in and punch out like you would in other fields (nor do you get paid in the summer like most think you do). Instead your work usually follows you home (lesson plans, grading, behavior plans, and parent communication after school and on the weekends) and your responsibilities often extend beyond your classroom (advisor roles, coaching gigs, faculty leadership roles, school and community events) and you usually pick up a job in the summer (waitressing, summer school teaching, painting houses, landscaping, etc.) to supplement your salary. If you’re creative, love to learn, problem-solve, collaborate with others (kids and adults alike) and wear a variety of hats, then teaching is a great fit for you. Once you’ve decided that teaching is a career you want to pursue, then it’s important for you to figure out what level, sector, and location you’ll work in (elementary vs. secondary; public vs. private; and state or country you’ll work in ) and plan your route from there because there are different core requirements and certifications based on the path you choose.

I am new to the administrative role in education, but my few months in my current role has taught me that it’s very important for you have a strong commitment and purpose for your work. I would say that if you’re interested in pursuing education administration that you should stay in your teaching position until you have a clear sense of why you’d like to move on to a leadership role. Your time spent as a teacher will serve as the foundation and roots for all that you do as an administrator. Additionally, I would say it’s critical to select an educational leadership program that suits your needs and learning style. I’ve been fortunate to be enrolled in a program that is dynamic, challenging, and filled with supportive professors and classmates. Regardless of where you end up in education, there’s a lot of on-the-job training that is inevitable, but gaining a clear sense of what subjects, grade levels, populations, and learning philosophies are the best fit for you will help get you to the position that’s your best fit.

What are the three most important interview questions to prepare for when going out for a job? I think interview prepping is similar across careers in that you should really nail down your core beliefs in why you are a good fit for a position and why you are excited about taking on a job if you’re offered it. If you prepare your answers (aloud to yourself is the best way to get comfortable) for core questions, you’ll find that the answers you come up with will be useful in navigating some of the more specific questions that a committee may ask you. It’s really difficult to clearly and concisely articulate something that you feel passionate about, especially when it’s deeply ingrained in your head and your heart, so practice… practice… practice.

What do you love most about your profession? You can give back in a really meaningful, rewarding and visible way, and you can truly live wherever you want and make a good living. I veered off the transient path that so many of my contemporaries went down and moved back to the town that I grew up in. I find a great sense of fulfillment from living and working in a place that has given me so much. Both my mom and my dad both grew up in the area where I live and they still live here today. I not only appreciate being able to see them on a day-to-day basis and sharing everyday life experiences with them in my adult life, but I truly love the area. There are endless waterways and mountains to explore and the people who live here are genuine, creative, down to earth, and hard-working. I was very lucky to have positive educational experiences from preschool on up, and after furthering my education, it feels really great to be able to bring all that I’ve learned back to a place where I found my love of learning. When I look at the kids that I work with on a day to day basis I can really connect with their experience because I’ve been there – I know what it’s like to be that kid going to public school in the Adirondacks – and I use that as a touchstone to guide how I can make their experience the very best for them.

What advice would you give to girls considering a career in education or education management? In your classes and in your life, find your voice and use it in all the ways that illuminate your beliefs, interests, passions, and quirks. The more you practice using your many voices (speaking, writing, advocating), the more confident and comfortable you’ll be when you’re running the show in a classroom or a board room. In all the jobs I have had and the classes I have taken, when I am on point with what’s going on in my head, heart, and gut, that’s when I am at my best and when I can take on whatever comes my way.

What would you wear to a job interview? A professional outfit that you feel comfortable and confident in.

Any favorite websites particular to your field (or ones you just love for fun)? The New York Times Learning Network, Edutopia, NPR Education, Mental Floss.

Looking back, what general life advice would you give to your former high-school self My best advice would be to be your full self without reservation and to take on new adventures without hesitation (no intention to rhyme there). As a high school student you have such a small glimpse of you who you are as person simply based on the amount of live you’ve lived, people you’ve met, and places you’ve been, so be prepared to change and to see things, including yourself and your role in the world, differently, but be sure to hang on to the values, ideas, traits, and parts of you that make you absolutely you. And, when you find those people that get you in that absolutely you state of being, hang on to them and take care of them because you’ll need them. Life throws serious curveballs and those people that know you, like in your belly-aching laughing or ugly-crying states of being, are going to be the only ones that  – A. Will be there for you, and, B. Will be able to fully connect with you during those highs and lows that just come with life. You’ll outgrow some friendships naturally, which is hard to accept and letting go can be painful, but identify them and deal with them accordingly, and above all, make sure you put in the time and do your part to cultivate the ones that can last a lifetime.

Any other words of wisdom? Regardless of what profession you choose, remember that in order to be your best you need to make time to live life. You’ll always have projects that are unfinished and are begging for you to give them more of your time, but sometimes you have to just do the best you can with the time you’ve got and be OK with that. You’ll be more creative, committed, and sane if you detach from your work and give yourself some time to do something that grounds you and makes you happy and feel like a human being (e.g. leave work before dark so you can get a hike with your friends and/or dog in, get home with enough time to make a delicious dinner rather than head straight to bed, etc.). And above all, be a good listener, laugh at yourself, and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something, even if you are at a board meeting with people who collectively have a million more years of experience than you, ask the question. In the end, by asking you’re learning and you’re less confused and better for it (and there’s bound to be someone in the room that didn’t know what that strange acronym stood for either and you helped them out of a jam too.)

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