Beth Leavitt was appointed Principal of our Barrows Elementary School last year and has just started her second year guiding her faculty, staff and students with parental support in a world becoming increasingly technological.
This year, Beth is excited to see all the classes implementing the Workshop Model where all the teachers have had training for Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop and ready to hit the ground running this year. Their classrooms are set up and look amazing according to Beth who will spend time visiting them all throughout the year to observe the instruction and learning.
Importantly, the Barrows PTA generously purchased technology for the school which included computer carts for the 5th grade and document cameras for every teacher. These new devices will enhance the learning for every student in all subjects.
Beth wanted to be a teacher ever since the 2nd grade where she was heavily influenced by her teacher while both her mother and grandmother were teachers as well. She enjoys seeing the children learn and observing the excitement they exude in the whole learning process.
She taught for 27 years before her appointment as Principal at Barrows Elementary in June of 2018. This included her first 5 years in the Shady Hill School and Harvard Law School Child Care Center followed by 9 years in Wakefield and 13 years in North Reading. She believes that today’s teaching challenges are more intense with the emphasis on the standards base curriculum and balancing the time needed to cover it all. She addresses the dilemma in part on the old fashion way of listening to her teachers and their concerns, supporting them wherever she can, and celebrating with them when things go well.
Beth got on the administrative side of elementary school education about 3 years ago when she began intensive Administrative Internship courses in Andover comprising 500 hours of study in Principal/Assistant Principal Practicum at the Sanborn Elementary School. She was encouraged by one of her Wakefield Principals who saw leadership qualities in her. Beth completed all licensure requirements in 2018 and applied for the Barrow’s Principal opening in June of last year.
The interviewing process itself for the Barrow’s position was very well thought out as it involved teams of parents, teachers, administrators and even 4th grade students asking questions. Dr. John Doherty, School Superintendent as well as Gail Dowd, CFO of our School Department were also involved in the process. Beth was offered the position, accepted, and immediately began the leadership process at Barrows. Her classroom management and instruction, curriculum design, cooperative learning, technology, supervision and evaluation, as well as community involvement in an inclusive classroom is what got her the position as Principal of Barrows.
The first step in her process of getting adjusted to Barrows was to recognize that a Principal faces the same demands as that of a teacher in meeting the curriculum needs for all her students. Getting acclimated in addressing that requirement meant taking it a day at a time, listening, being a strong communicator and letting all know your expectations. Her first-year’s emphasis was in listening and taking it a day at a time. Year 2, just now beginning with Year 1 behind her, Beth can now put more emphasis on curriculum and expectations.
Beth enjoys most the fact that there never is a dull moment, that every day is different, and that the Barrows community of teachers, students, staff, and parents are very supportive of her efforts in meeting their needs and those of her students. It’s a total process going beyond education to the total person.
Along the way, the Reading School System provided strong direction for Beth and the Barrows Community with their “Curriculum Guides” whose motto is “Consistency is what transforms average into excellence”. There are standards for each grade level to adhere to so expectations are well defined and monitored through the Superintendent’s Office of Learning and Teaching which is headed by Christine Kelley.
This school year began at Barrows with a “Welcome Back Party” held on the school’s rear blacktop where parents, teachers and students had the opportunity to socialize just prior to the bell ringing for school to begin. Songs were played, signs carried, selfies were taken and students posed under an arch of school color blue and yellow balloons. Beth wanted to take some of the nerves away on the first day so the music definitely helped and contributed to a wonderful first 2 days, Beth felt.
Beth has a Master’s Degree in Education in Moderate Special Needs from Framingham State College in 1994 and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Child Development from Connecticut College in 1991. Among her many teaching credits, she was a Grade 1 and Grade 2 teacher and Science/Technology Engineering Curriculum Specialist at the E. Ethel Little School in North Reading, taught at the Montrose and Dolbeare Schools in Wakefield and served as Acting Director at Harvard Law School’s Child Care Center.
Beth lives in North Reading with her husband of 26 years, Steve, owner of Massachusetts Senior Benefits Services, and daughters Bekah, a Junior at UMass Lowell studying Physical Therapy and Jordan, a freshman at UMass, Amherst studying Early Child Care and Education. She considers herself very fortunate to be in Reading which has an “awesome” school system where the administration, faculty and staff are very supportive of each other and families care so much about their children’s education.