PRINCIPAL WALTER WALLACE shown at Brunswick Junior High School on Tuesday.

PRINCIPAL WALTER WALLACE shown at Brunswick Junior High School on Tuesday.

BRUNSWICK

Walter Wallace has been the Brunswick Junior High School principal since 2009, having worked previously as Coffin School’s principal. However, his roots in education can be traced back to 1994 when he was a teacher at North Yarmouth Memorial School. Wallace was honored this month by the Maine Principal’s Association as Maine Principal of the Year, and will be headed to Washington, D.C. with principals representing every state as part of a conference.

Wallace, the father of two children, spoke about how classes become like families, working in an aging building and Van Halen.

The Times Record: Why did you want a career in education?

Walter Wallace: I can honestly say I wasn’t one of those people that knew it from an early age. I had earned a degree in psychology in college, but did not want to go to graduate school right away, so I began substitute teaching.

I enjoyed the pace of the day and the creativity that was inherent in the job. I would often use the sub plans as my guide and add my own ideas that I felt would make them more engaging for the students. I soon realized that this could be my career and I went back to school to get my teaching certificate.

It’s been a wonderful and exciting career so far. On a more personal note, I met my wife through teacher friends, so that worked out well.

TR: Why did you transition from teaching to administration?

WW: I was fortunate to work in a district that valued teacher leadership and provided me with opportunities to take on leadership roles. I found I enjoyed working with adults at that level, and I was also fascinated with the scope of the work of a principal.

Additionally, I felt like I had good ideas about how to best educate our students, and a leadership role would allow me to have a greater influence with the direction of the school.

I went back to school and earned an advanced degree in school leadership and became principal at Harrison Elementary School. After two years there I accepted the principalship at Coffin School and then moved to Brunswick Junior High School six years later.

TR: Junior high school can be a difficult time, especially for children in that age group. What’s your philosophy when it comes to connecting with students?

WW: The best thing I can do as a principal is to create structures so we can get to know our students well. The better we know each and every student, the higher they can go.

Our adviser program is a perfect example of this. We start each day in advisory where the student-teacher ratio is 10-1. The number one goal during that time is for the teacher to check in with his/her students. Throughout the year, the adviser class becomes more like a family, and strong bonds develop.

The students know that their adviser teacher is looking out for them and will help them in anyway. The adviser teacher is a student’s go-to person and is an essential link to the other teachers and resources throughout the school and beyond.

In addition, we have strong teams that meet every other day to discuss their students needs and connections between the classes. That way, a student has a team approach to working through problems and making their educational experience engaging and fulfilling.

TR: Along with Coffin School, Brunswick Junior High School’s building is facing some challenges due to its age. What needs to be done in order for students to have a safe and productive learning environment?

WW: Although the school is aging, for sure, it’s the exciting work between the teachers and the students that keeps the learning environment productive. We know we have limits based on the facility, but that is where excellent teaching comes in.

Through thoughtful planning, creative thinking, and professional work ethics, our staff is able to help our students reach high expectations.

Regarding safety, our facilities and custodial crews work hard to make sure our building and grounds are safe for our staff and students. It takes a bit more effort to maintain a safe environment in an older building, but that is the number one priority.

I know there are discussions at the school board level regarding bonding for repairs and I think it would benefit the school.

TR: What’s one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?

WW: I think people would be surprised with my spontaneous nature outside of school. When I am here on the job, there are many things that require careful, detailed planning. I work closely with talented people here to make sure we are as prepared as possible.

Once I am away from the office, I tend be more carefree with my time and more open to something spur-ofthe moment. Van Halen is playing in Philadelphia this weekend? Let’s go!

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