Elementary principal connects with students, community
By DAVID DANZIS
Oct. 16, 2017
GREEN, N.J. (AP) — Be better today than you were yesterday.
That is the message Green Hills School faculty and staff are focusing on under the direction of new principal Jennifer Thompson in the 2017-18 school year. It's a philosophy that the 30-year-old from Byram said will build the educational foundation in the K-8 school for years to come.
"Our focus is on ensuring that from the ground up we are the very best that we can possibly be for our students on a daily basis," Thompson told The New Jersey Herald (http://bit.ly/2z6ysit). "It's exciting when you have new vision, new goals. I think it excites people."
Superintendent John Nittolo said the "be better today" mantra is part of what he called a growth mindset that Thompson and the district share when it comes to education.
"There's a synergy between what she's saying and what we have believed and want to do here. We try and create the best version of every child," Nittolo said. "It's a beautiful marriage of what we believe."
Thompson began her tenure as principal at Green Hills in September, and Nittolo said feedback from parents and staff has already been overwhelmingly positive.
"I've gotten emails from parents just thanking me, congratulating me on the hire," he said. "I get to bask in the glow of hiring somebody that people seem to respect and like. She's unflappable in certain situations, and the parents can pick up on that. They pick up that she maintains a steady focus and a steady hand, that she's easy to speak with. ... They feel she's a great fit."
Thompson is no stranger to Green Hills School. While completing her course work for graduate school, she spent time in the district in an administration program working with Nittolo. He said that when he saw her name on the list of potential candidates in the summer, he knew she would be the perfect fit for the tight-knit community school.
"Through the interview process, her responses were so well thought out, her knowledge on educational issues (was) impressive and vast," Nittolo said. "This is a calling for her. This is what she does because she is meant to do this. ... I know that when the position opened up and she threw her hat into the ring, you could tell she was just a great fit for what we needed here, what the community expects from their educational leaders and administrators."
Thompson said she was drawn to Green because of her previous experience in the school, but also because of the time she spent in the community getting to know people. She said when she attended events such as Green Township Day or the principal meet-and-greet before the school year started, she felt a warmth from parents that made her feel welcome.
Thompson began her educational career teaching English to sixth- and seventh-graders in Frankford. She then accepted a vice principal position at McKinley Elementary School in Newark before coming to Green. When asked what she missed about being in the classroom, Thompson gave a surprising answer: Nothing.
"I feel like what I do now, I don't feel like I'm missing anything," she said. "One reason I went from teaching to administration was that I was just looking for a larger classroom, and in doing so I can make a greater impact on students. So, it enables me the flexibility to go to classrooms throughout the course of the day. Because, ultimately, that's why I'm here -- to serve the student. The student is our number one priority, and it ranges from safety to academics and their personal happiness as well."
Thompson said her outlook on education is entirely student-driven.
"Ultimately, it should be about them, and that should be the focus, always. Hands down. So, that's always where my heart lies," she said. "I am somebody who is very passionate in general about education. I believe very strongly in the fact that our students are our future. ... It's not just a job for me -- it's a lifestyle."
Information from: The New Jersey Herald (Newton, N.J.), http://www.njherald.com