Beeman Elementary looks locally for new principal

NEW HAVEN — Travis Park’s commute from his home in Bristol is about to get a little shorter.
Since 2016 Park has served as principal of Addison Central School. On July 1 he’ll report to Beeman Elementary School in New Haven, where he will replace outgoing Principal Kristine Evarts, who has accepted the position of special education coordinator at Otter Valley Union Middle/High School.
A Utah native, Park, 39, moved to Vermont when he was 20 and fell in love with teaching while volunteering at Bristol Elementary School. In 2011, after college and a few years teaching and coaching in New Hampshire, Park returned to Bristol Elementary and taught there for five years before becoming principal of Addison Central.
The Addison Independent asked Park to share a little bit about himself and his vision for Beeman Elementary. Here’s what he had to say:
What’s one quality/interest/experience you have that makes you relatable to elementary school kids?
I am a big sports fan. I enjoy young adult books. I juggle! Kids love that. I am actively involved and genuinely care about kids, and that seems to show in the way I interact with them. I have young kids myself. I’ve also had the privilege of teaching kindergarten and third through sixth grade, and have coached sports around the same age.
How old are your children and how do they like living with “the principal”?
My daughters are eight, six and four. As for living with a principal, they still seem to think I teach, but just have more meetings at night. They also look to me as their personal jungle gym and play-toy at the moment.
You grew up in Utah, but you’re a Chicago Bears football fan. Why not the Denver Broncos?
When I was seven, “Da Bears” were the best in football (and coincidentally beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl). Growing up in a state without a professional football team gave me the freedom to choose, and that was the year I got really into football. However, my grandmother throughout my life always confused the Broncos and the Bears in her gifts to me — much to my dismay. It only furthered my love of the Bears and dislike of the Broncos!
Tell us about your family ties to the area.
My wife, Mandy Chesley-Park, is the seventh generation to live in her Bristol house growing up. She is the director of ANeSU/MAUSD Expanded Learning Program. 
Your bio says you play the guitar (though “poorly”). What kind of music do you play and how has that informed your views on music in schools?
I try and play anything that uses basic chords! My children all play the violin, which has been a wonderful way to support their growth. It takes dedication, perseverance and hard work, and I feel that it is a great way for students to challenge themselves.
What prompted your move from Utah to Vermont when you were 20?
I became a missionary for my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and was assigned this area. During my time here I did lots of volunteering and was asked by a teacher to volunteer in the classroom. I really grew to enjoy working with youth and ultimately this guided my path toward elementary education.
Was there a specific moment while volunteering at Bristol Elementary School when you just knew you wanted to be a teacher?
The first time I substitute-taught was for a sixth-grade class. I was very nervous. But as I made my way to the office to check in I was greeted with smiling faces. Then, as the kids came into the classroom they were excited and engaged in the work. I may have mentioned to them that we could play a mean game of Four Square later if they were good! Overall, though, I think it was a collection of moments that inspired me.
Did you have any Aha! moments while principal of Addison Central School that you will find helpful as you transition to Beeman?
This year we started awarding students a Soaring Eagle Award for going above and beyond school expectations. During the award assembly I could see the anticipation on the kids’ faces as they looked to see who it would be, and then when the name was read it was great seeing the excitement from that student, the other students, teachers and parents. The Aha! was not that we all enjoy being surprised, which is great, but that we enjoy feeling valued, like we are part of something. My hope is that every single Beeman student feels valued, cared for and part of a community.
Tell us about your plans for getting to know Beeman and the New Haven community.
My plan is to meet with all the staff and as many community and family members as possible. I would like to connect with incoming kindergarteners and their families by visiting their homes, if possible. I want to be visible in the community.
What else would you like the Beeman community to know about you that no one ever seems to ask?
I was that kid that went to seven different elementary schools in six years. I remember being nervous walking into a new school and meeting new people. One thing that made a difference for me was my teachers. I had one teacher who went out of his way to call on me in class, and even if I answered a question wrong helped me feel like it was OK and to keep trying. And when I got it right he praised my expertise and made me feel like an important part of the class. Teachers and educators make a difference. I’m proud to be a part of this school and community and want all Beeman students to feel the way I did: valued, cared for, with a sense of belonging.
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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