Friday, September 1, 2023

WMS teacher AJ Ruth delighted to take on new role as assistant principal

By Lorraine Glowczak

AJ Ruth knew from the moment that she taught her first seventh-grade class that she would always be a middle school educator. As she enters her 21st year in education, with 19 at Windham Middle School serving as a science and math teacher, Ruth remains with the age group that stole her heart in the earliest years of her career. Only now, she has moved from teaching students at WMS to leading them and her colleagues as the new WMS Assistant Principal, replacing Peter Hill.

AJ Ruth, who has been a Windham Middle School science
and mathematics teacher for the past 19 years, will serve
as the school's assistant principal.
“I am thrilled to get this job in this community and this school,” she said. “I’ve been working on becoming an administrator for the past four years and the thought of having to leave WMS saddened me. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome regarding my professional goals.”

As for her new role as a leader, Ruth seemed to possess the innate ability to lead others at an early age. During her middle and high school years at Presque Isle, she eagerly directed and guided fellow youth in many club and sports activities, including the President of her Key Club and swimming instructor as a youth and throughout adulthood. As a result, her role from teacher to leader seems like a natural transition.

“I’ve always loved being a leader and my involvement with school and community events continues to this day,” she said. “Becoming the WMS Assistant Principal has been a dream and is the right fit at this time for me.”

Ruth’s colleagues agree and are very happy with the selection of their new assistant principal.

“Because we already know and love her, AJ is the perfect liaison between staff and the new principal [Greg Applestein],” said Doug Elder, WMS seventh-grade social studies teacher who has team-taught with Ruth over the past seven years in hands-on, inquiry-based projects.

“As much as we all hate to lose her as a team teacher, she has the skills and qualities it takes to be our next assistant principal. Working closely with her the past couple of weeks in her new role has proven us right. We are happy she is staying with us at WMS.”

Providing youth with authentic and engaging learning experiences is how Ruth approaches education. In recent years, Ruth, and fellow WMS colleagues including Elder, have implemented Project Based Learning (PBL), an educational method that promotes students’ ownership of their learning as they design, develop, and construct hands-on solutions to real-life situations.

“PBL allows students to show their creativity in ways they can’t in the regular classroom,” Ruth said.

Ruth said the best part about her new job is the amount of support and encouragement she has received from her colleagues.

“The WMS staff are like family and to have their backing in this transition has meant the world to me. We are a close group. If you ask anyone in our building what the one most important strength we carry, they will tell you it is the strong relationships we have with each other.”

There is also positive strength growing and developing between Ruth and the new WMS principal.
Their admiration and support for one another reflect that strength.

“Greg has had a variety of experiences in administration and has led at different schools across the state,” Ruth said. “As a result, he brings expertise to WMS that will help guide and continue the wonderful work we offer students. Being a veteran administrator, Greg will be a good resource for me and a great mentor as I learn my new role.”

Applestein said that he is also looking forward to continuing to grow and develop the relationship with Ruth to best serve the students, staff, and families of WMS.

“We share a lot of the same core values, and we have a very similar vision for WMS,” he said. “She is a seasoned veteran teacher who held many teacher-leadership positions which gives her the background and experience working with all stakeholders. As a long-serving teacher at WMS, AJ has that historical perspective about the climate, culture, and community of the school and the town. Additionally, her ability to do the right things for the right reasons, makes AJ a vibrant and dynamic assistant principal and we are very fortunate to have her at WMS.”

Ruth received her bachelor’s and master’s in education as well as her certification in administration from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine.

When she is not working with middle school students and staff, Ruth spends time with her family, hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter, noting that being in nature is her saving grace. She lives in Windham with her husband, a son, and a daughter. <

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