October is National Principals Month, and we’re introducing you to our building principals with a short Q&A. Chris Martel leads the Academy at Rensselaer Educational Center, The Robin Sobol Transition Academy at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, district-based classes at Columbia High School and Goff Middle School in East Greenbush, and our CDOS teachers.
Tell us about your “road to becoming a principal” – how did you end up in this role?
I had been teaching for about 12 years, and was in my 5th year at Albany High School. I had taken more of a leadership role in the teachers’ association, serving as a building rep and facilitating our monthly labor-management liaison meetings with the building administrative team. I had not really considered a move to administration at the time, but had I had learned about the “Call to Leadership” program being offered through the College of Saint Rose, which was a new program for aspiring educational leaders. At that time, it was subsidized through a grant, with tuition being funded for the first semester. As skeptical as I was about becoming an administrator, I was curious enough to want to learn more, and saw that program as a great way to learn more about the work with little risk or cost. I was accepted and joined their second cohort in the Educational Leadership program, which I would describe as a transformational experience in my life. After completing that program, I accepted an interim administrative position at the same alternative program in Albany at which I started my teaching career. After that position was eliminated from the budget for the following year, I was fortunate enough to get my position here at Questar III.
What is your favorite part of your job?
It is hard to say any one thing, but what I enjoy most is supporting students and staff every day. Seeing a student grasp a concept that they have been struggling with, and demonstrate a new skill, academic or social/emotional, is the greatest reward in this work for me. And Snow Days!
How do you know that you are making an impact on your students?
There are little moments every day. As I said before, witnessing a student learning new skills, or having a parent reach out to say thank you for believing in their child, or just making a student smile. I know when our students return to school after having struggled on the previous day that we are helping them build a connection to their school, and taking ownership of their learning.
What is one surprising thing about your job that most people wouldn’t expect?
The variety. No day is routine, nor is it like any other.
What are some of your favorite things to do outside of work?
I spend as much time with my family as I can. We really enjoy traveling, but I am just as happy to spend some quiet time at home, or to just go on a walk with them. I love getting together with friends, and try to do that as often as I can. I really love to read, and often find myself wishing that I had more time to do that.