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From Sailor to Teacher to School Leader

Marc Smith will be principal of Forestdale School this year, following a year as principal of HT Wing School.

by Marc J. Smith, Principal – Forestdale School

When I was 16 years old I had the opportunity to become a Junior Instructor (JI) at the Orleans Yacht Club.  I had attended the club’s sailing program every year since the age of 10 and had become a competent sailor that competed on our racing team.  As a JI, I was responsible for assisting the Senior Instructors in teaching ten year olds how to sail for the very first time.  How do I take what I knew how to do, something that seemed so natural I didn’t really have to think about it anymore, and explain it to others in a way that will allow them to do it?

It was after this summer experience that I knew I wanted to be a teacher.  The excitement that I found in designing lessons to introduce concepts such as sailing upwind, tacking and maneuvering along with activities to reinforce those concepts in practice signaled that teaching was the vocation for me.  I distinctly remember spending nights, while I was bussing tables, thinking about examples that would be relevant to students and that would help them to better understand some of the abstract concepts that allow a boat to travel through the water using only wind for power.

Upon receiving my first teaching job my passion for working with students was further ignited.  What I remember most about that first year was the opportunity I had as a teacher to develop deep, meaningful and lasting relationships with my students.  By the end of the year, I remember such a feeling of loss on the last day of school seeing the students board the busses and head home for the summer.  I had come to feel as if those children were my own.

After several years of teaching grades 5, 6 and 7 I decided I wanted to take a more active role in leading change to improve the quality of education for students in public schools.  After furthering my own education, I was fortunate enough to obtain a leadership role as a curriculum supervisor.  The most important lesson I learned in that first year, and a lesson I carry with me each day, is that the establishment of quality relationships is the foundation to quality leadership.

Today I find myself entering my second year as a principal, and as I look back it is hard to believe how much I have changed from that 16 year old sailor that wanted to share what he knew.  On the other hand, much of what I value has stayed consistent during that time (my hair color excluded).  I still get excited about designing ways to share information with staff, students, parents and the community.  I often find myself thinking at night about the best ways to convey information, provide relevant examples and solicit feedback to inform my process going forward.  I also know that no amount of knowledge or expertise will help me lead without the development of quality relationships.

I am very excited about my future here in Sandwich.   The years ahead provide an amazing opportunity for the Town of Sandwich to rethink the way we educate our students, and create a full PreK-12 experience that is the envy of every community in the state.  I look forward to working closely with my colleagues and the community as we embark on this amazing endeavor.


Marc and his kiddos

Mr. Smith and his kiddos

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