Kathleen Flanaghan is Eli Whitney School’s new principal, having taken the reins July 1. Flanaghan has spent her education career in Enfield, literally working her way up, starting as a parent-volunteer.
Flanaghan’s children attended Parkman Elementary School, where she began as a volunteer mom, but was encouraged to get into teaching. She went back to school to get her undergraduate degree and did her student teaching at Parkman, then worked at Henry Barnard and Prudence Crandall as a fourth-grade teacher. She then became an academic coach at both Eli Whitney and Hazardville Memorial, supporting teachers, and going into the classroom to work with children and present new instructional ideas.
Continuing her education, and “toggling the line between teaching and administration,” as she said, she then moved to an assistant principal at Henry Barnard for one year, before seizing the opportunity to become principal at Eli Whitney.
“I was able to return to Eli Whitney and come back home where I had spent five years, and continue to build upon the community here,” she said.
Building that community in a time of uncertainty is no small task, but Flanaghan said she and her staff are preparing for all possibilities as the next school year draws closer.
“We’ve had to really look at what the future of education looks like,” she said. “We’ve had to look at things through a different lens. We’ve had to collaborate in a different fashion. The collaboration of the Enfield team has been so impressive. From the ground level of kitchen staff and bus drivers, to parents and children, to custodial staff and teachers, to administrative staff at all offices, we have been a collaborative unit.
“We’ve been looking at new technology and getting it into the hands of children. It’s been a learning process for all of us. We’ve moved to online learning, which has been good for children in the early stages. We’re moving toward a full opening, with some changes, but certainly planning for the unknown.”
Flanaghan said she and her staff are working hard this summer to build a curriculum and make sure the school provides a safe environment, where children feel nurtured and can learn.
“We’re going to begin with bringing them back and building a brand new community,” she said. “We want to make sure families feel safe and that they are part of an inclusive environment where all voices can be heard.”
That, she said, will help the community move forward in the right direction.
“That is where we begin, come September,” Flanaghan said, adding that there will certainly be challenges.
“We have children who have been home for a while, and not able to see their friends, coming back into an environment that looks a bit different,” she said. “We have to make sure that their social-emotional well-being is met. We need to meet them where they fit. They’ve also had a different look at instruction. We’re looking back at how we get them to work within the classroom.”
The new principal said making a difference is what motivates her, and what she loves most about being an educator.
“I always wanted a purposeful life,” she said. “I want children to feel that they have a purpose, that they are important, and that they are capable of things beyond their imagination. They’re our future, and someday they’ll be taking care of us. I think I’m giving back the gift of a lifetime.”
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