Matt Haney '94 (bottom right), Principal, MDI High School
How many years have you been the principal of your school?
What first sparked your interest in becoming a school leader?
Both of my parents were educators, and my dad was a high school principal for a time. I've always been intrigued by leadership, and I guess the pieces just fell into place for me.
What was your education/career path from GSA graduation to your current job?
After high school I attended The University of Maine and earned a bachelor's degree in Kinesiology and Physical Education. Upon graduation I stayed at UMaine as a member of the baseball coaching staff and earned a master's degree in Educational Leadership. From there I became a PE teacher and Athletic Director at Old Town High School and then the middle school and high school Athletic Director for what was then known as Union 96 at Sumner High School and four K-8 schools. From there I moved on to MDI High school where I was an Assistant Principal for 8 years before becoming the Principal in 2013.
In hindsight, can you draw any connection between your own school experience at GSA and the career path you chose? What was formative about your student experience at GSA?
I try to model my leadership style after the experience I had at GSA. When I was in high school we prided ourselves on being independent thinkers, and the students were given a lot more responsibility than what is typical in many schools. I think that approach really worked for me, and I try to bring much of that to MDI.
Looking back to your senior year of high school, what career/aspirations did you have for yourself at that time? What did you do as an Independent Study project?
At the time I was really into sports, particularly baseball. I was looking ahead to my college career. I had no illusions of becoming a pro athlete, and as such I was planning to emulate the career of Coach Kane, who I've always looked up to and respected like a member of my own family. It turns out that my teaching career was fairly brief before I went down the trail of full-time administration. As for Independent Study, I spent both years working in the group sales department at Sunday River Ski Resort.
What educational, work, or life experience has best prepared you to take on the role of school principal?
Without a doubt, my athletic career paved the way for my professional career as an educator. Both as a player and a coach I learned the value of teamwork, accountability, responsibility, and hard work. Both as a principal and an athlete, you are only as good as the people you rely on and the only way to success is to build each other up.
What do you love about being a school principal? What is most rewarding about this job?
I truly love the opportunity to work so closely with a vast array of people, both students and adults. The numerous daily interactions I have with teenagers simultaneously keep me young and make me feel my age. I have had the opportunity to forge lasting relationships with different colleagues at my school, in my region, and across the state. I consider myself to be blessed.
What is challenging about being a school principal?
The principal of a school is the center of its emotional cyclone. One of my key roles is to help to absorb some of that emotion so that others can manage to forge ahead and achieve their goals. Sometimes after all that absorption it feels like I'm a sponge that needs to be wrung out. That's where it becomes very important to have balance. I find that balance through physical activity and sharing adventures with my family.
What is a source of pride in your school community?
Our school community is a place bursting with pride. We love our place, we love our students, and we love each other. We don't have all the answers but we are confident that we can work together to find them.
Anything else you would like to share?
I'd like to thank my parents for giving me the freedom to choose my own path then guiding me along the way. When I went to high school, most of the students from my town didn't attend GSA. My parents supported me in making the less convenient school choice, and it's been paying dividends from the very first day.