Monday, December 9, 2013

Windham High's Deveaux named 2014 assistant principal of the year - By Elizabeth Richards

 Windham High School assistant principal Kelli Deveaux was named Maine’s 2014 Assistant Principal of the Year by the Maine Principal’s Association (MPA) at an all-school assembly on November 26th.
Deveaux said she was elated, in part because it feels nice to be recognized, but even more because she is excited to be able to represent assistant principals, Windham and public education on a larger scale. 

Deveaux will be honored by the MPA at its annual awards banquet in March. She will also travel with her husband to Washington D.C. in April, where she will be recognized by the National Association of Secondary School Principals during a three-day program. This program will include professional development activities, networking opportunities and a black-tie dinner and awards program. 

While in DC, she will also have an opportunity to meet with members of congress to talk about education. “Being given the opportunity to advocate for Maine, assistant principals, and public education at a national level is huge for me. The passions of my life really are about education and educational policy and public interest, and I get a chance to really speak up about it,” she said.

Deveaux earned a Bachelor’s degree at the University of New Hampshire in 1993, and her MSEd in Educational Leadership from the University of Southern Maine in 1995. 

Deveaux began her career in education in South Portland, as a high school English teacher. She said she loved the classroom, and still has moments where she misses that kind of contact with students. Encouraged by a mentor, Jeanne Crocker, who was the principal at South Portland High School, she explored roles in administration. “She convinced me that it’s really an opportunity to do more for kids,” said Deveaux, a statement she said she’s found to be true.

Deveaux became an assistant principal at Windham High School in 2002, and is in her 12th year in the role. She said that initially she struggled with the responsibilities of being an assistant principal, and the often negative interactions that come with the job. “A lot of my job is about establishing rules and expectations and holding students, and sometimes adults, to those expectations. That’s not always a positive experience. But, I have learned to do it with my own style which includes a lot of humor and a lot of support. I want the kids, and the adults, to know that I care about them enough to say this is what’s acceptable and this is what isn’t.”
She added that she really appreciates the support she has received from the administrative team in Windham. “I have found the opportunity to not just impact students that were in my classroom, but I’m able to impact students in a whole school,” she said.   

One accomplishment that she is very proud of is starting a clothing closet at the high school, which offers food, toiletries and clothing to students who cannot get those needs met elsewhere. 

Deveaux is also proud of a class that she co-teaches each spring, called Girl’s Group. Girls are nominated and apply to participate, and six girls are selected “because that’s how many fit in a minivan,” she said. The girls nominated are those who have “yet untapped potential,” but may have barriers to reaching that potential, said Deveaux. 

The group learns to work together to support one another and see that women can be successful and varied in what they are able to accomplish. The final exam for the class for the past few years has been to have the group find, train for, fundraise for and complete a 5K. “The sense of accomplishment is huge, and that’s what I hope they take from it,” said Deveaux.

Deveaux said one of the things she hopes to do as a result of receiving this honor is to emphasize to communities and school leaders the importance of the role of an assistant principal. There are frequent conversations in education about school safety, bullying and harassment, and often the person with primary responsibility in tending to those issues is the assistant principal. Yet, during difficult financial times, Deveaux said she sees school districts cutting the role in favor of a teacher leader model. “I worry that in doing that we’re losing sight of some of the really key initiatives and key focus of school safety, school community, school culture and climate building,” she said.

Deveaux said that the students know her well, and understand that even when they get into trouble, she cares about them as people. Watching students grow and mature from freshman to graduation is an incredibly moving experience, she said. “To be able to get the kid to graduation and say I had a piece of that is huge. It’s a really awesome experience.”

Deveaux lives in Gorham with her husband and three young children.

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