Shelly Astbury Schildroth '00, Principal, Blue Hill Consolidated School
How many years have you been the principal of your school?
What first sparked your interest in becoming a school leader?
In my first year as a teacher, I joined the Curriculum Committee. Serving on that committee for many years had a big impact on me. Under the leadership of Gail Breslin Keith, we became one of the first unions to move to standards-based grading. Keith's example helped me realize that I wanted to be a leader who could guide big changes in education based on what is best for kids.
I've attended professional conferences that were well done and left teachers feeling inspired. I would like to be that kind of inspiring leader.
What was your education/career path from GSA graduation to your current job?
From GSA, I went to University of Maine, Orono to study Elementary Education. I got a job teaching at BHCS right out of UMO. Working on the Curriculum Committee, I decided I wanted to become a Curriculum Coordinator. I taught in the classroom for ten years and then landed what was my dream job at the time--Curriculum Coordinator for Union 93. After nine months, I was given the opportunity to step in as Interim Principal at BHCS when the incoming principal unexpectedly resigned. I hadn't applied for that job and was excited about my role as Curriculum Coordinator, but I felt a sense of responsibility to BHCS, where I'd spent so many years of my life as a student and teacher. Once I took on the Interim Principal position, I realized how much I enjoyed being around kids again yet serving in a leadership role. I decided to apply for the permanent position.
In hindsight, can you draw any connection between your own school experience and the career path you chose?
I've known I wanted to be a teacher since 7th grade, when I was sort of the "go-to" for peers who needed help. I've always loved school--couldn't wait for a test, loved to read, and loved my teachers.
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?
As mentioned earlier, I knew well before high school that I wanted to be a teacher. I hadn't thought of taking on a leadership position until later, when I became a teacher. I spent one year of Independent Study in a pre-school classroom and realized that I wanted to teach older kids.
What educational, work, or life experience has best prepared you to take on the role of school principal?
I'm part of a big family, so I've always spent a lot of time around kids. I knew I wanted to both be a mom and work. My deep connections to BHCS, especially as a teacher for 10 years, prepared me well for supporting a school culture that respects teachers and treats them as professionals.
What do you love about being a school principal? What is most rewarding about this job?
I enjoy problem-solving, which is an important part of the job. It's rewarding when a problem gets solved, like finding the right plan for a student. We work together as a team to find success, and it makes an impact.
What is challenging about being a school principal?
Juggling the workload with being a mom is the hardest part; luckily we're at the same school! It is a huge job trying to know everything there is to know about the building and what goes on in it. The principal is responsible for evaluating all employees and has a relationship with everyone in the school. Providing support for teachers is an important part of the job, and it can take a lot of time to help figure out the right plan for each student.
What is a source of pride in your school community?
Our students are well-rounded and are given opportunities to be involved citizens in the community, for example by participating in events like the Invasive Species Day we held on school grounds and the Blue Hill Cares community clean-up. We attract really good teachers who are proud to be part of our faculty. We also work all the time on differentiation for our students so every child has access to challenging and engaging work.