MONKTON — There will be an unfamiliar face in the principal’s office when students return to Monkton Central School at the end of August.
Betsy Knox, a longtime educator who lives in Hinesburg, has taken the helm as the interim principal of the school — and she says she couldn’t be happier to be there.
“I’m excited about what this year will bring,” Knox told the Independent late last week. “The people I have met so far have been warm and welcoming.”
Knox, 52, completed her undergraduate studies at the State University of New York at Geneseo, and earned a master’s degree at SUNY New Paltz. She began her teaching career not too far from there, at an elementary school in Pine Plains, N.Y.
Knox said she knew she wanted to be a teacher from a very young age.
I wanted to be a teacher since I was in third grade,” she said. “In sixth grade I had the opportunity to go down to the kindergarten classrooms and help out, and I loved that.”
Through high school, Knox said her desire to become an educator never wavered. She had the opportunity to help out in a third-grade classroom.
“It was ingrained in me — I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” Knox said. “When I went to college, I already had quite a bit of classroom experience.”
After completing her master’s degree, Knox landed her first teaching position at Seymour Smith Elementary School in Pine Plains, N.Y., in the Hudson Valley.
“It was a very rural community, very much like Monkton, where the school is really the vibrant part of the town,” Knox said.
Knox taught second and fourth grade at Seymour Smith during four years there. She then served five years as a reading teacher at an elementary school in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., before landing a job as a lecturer in the Elementary Education Department of the University of Vermont.
“I supervised UVM juniors and seniors as they worked in local schools,” Knox said.
She said being a part-time lecturer was a good fit for her, as she had a flexible schedule and could take time to care for her two young sons. Now, her eldest son is a student at UVM, while her younger son is a senior at Champlain Valley Union High School.
From 2004 until this year, Knox served as the literacy coordinator at Hinesburg Community School.
Knox said that she enjoys working with elementary students because they are vivacious and incessantly curious.
“I think the younger kids are just so full of love for learning, which is exciting,” Knox said. “But they are also very busy, so you need a lot of energy and need to be up all the time.”
Knox said that when she heard about the vacancy in Monkton, she jumped at the opportunity. She said it was perfect timing, as she had just completed her certificate of advanced study in school leadership at St. Michael’s College last year.
“I had pursued my leadership degree, received my license from the state, and I really felt like I was ready to move on, and ready for that next step in my career,” she said. “The fact that Monkton was available, the location is certainly ideal, but it’s that sense of community.”
She said she was attracted to Monkton because the school climate reminded her of Hinesburg.
“Hinesburg has a strong sense of community as well, as the school is a really important piece that brings the town together,” Knox said. “I see that’s very similar at Monkton, and I’m excited for the many opportunities to bring the community into the school.”
Knox said her primary goal is to watch, learn and support the work that is already going on in the building, and to support the professional growth of faculty and staff.
She placed a strong emphasis on academics, but this isn’t to say that it’s all about the reading, writing and ’rithmetic.
“The academics are very important, but so are the social and emotional parts of learning,” Knox said.
This includes problem solving, self-expression and resolving peer conflicts without adult intervention.
It appears that little fazes Knox — when a field mouse ran across the floor of her office during our interview, she did not bat an eye. Undoubtedly, this fearlessness will aid her as a school administrator.
In her free time, Knox said she enjoys a litany of outdoor activities, including cross-country skiing and hiking. She said she rises most mornings at 5:30 a.m. to go swimming before work.
The vacancy was created when full-time principal Susan Stewart asked the school board for one year of unpaid leave in May. Stewart told the Independent in June that she has taken a one-year classroom teaching position, and plans to return to Monkton Central School for the 2015-16 school year.