Hudson – Melissa Provost of Leicester began as principal of Farley Elementary School last August, shortly before the teachers returned to work. Soon after, she greeted preschoolers through fourth graders back from their summer break.
“Although I started late, this was the smoothest transition I’ve ever had into a new job,” she said. “I knew right away that this place was a great fit for me.”
A self-described “career changer,” the mother of two children decided that she’d prefer working in the education field rather than continue in accounting. That revelation became a reality after she volunteered at the Mad Brook Academy in North Brookfield, where her then-preschool daughter attended. She was ultimately hired there as a preschool and kindergarten teacher.
“I learned a lot about literacy and how to read books to students,” she recalled. “Teaching them to read was so powerful in kindergarten. It was the ‘aha’ moments there that brought me to where I am today.”
While teaching at that private school, Provost studied at Anna Maria College and earned a bachelor’s degree in human growth and development with a concentration in elementary education.
“My heart is with the younger children,” she noted.
Next, she worked for the Quaboag Regional School District, beginning as a Title 1 math and reading teacher. When other positions opened, she became a classroom teacher for grades five and six. While there, the principal recommended that she further her studies in administration.
Provost received a master’s degree in elementary administration from Northeastern University. Her first job in administration was director of mathematics for kindergarten through sixth grade in Southbridge. When that position evolved to include up to 12th grade, she looked elsewhere for employment.
“It so happened that the assistant principal job opened up in Leicester, where I live,” she said. “It was a convenient, six-minute commute every day.”
However, she did have some extra travel time between the two buildings where Provost served as assistant principal for four years. One school includes pre-kindergarten through second grade, and the other is grades three through five. Dividing her attention between the two buildings was a challenge, she noted.
“It was hard to try to split myself in two and be 100 percent in both buildings,” she acknowledged. “Leaving one building and going to the other, you sometimes feel like you haven’t completed something.”
She cites that position in Leicester as offering the biggest learning curve to prepare her as a principal.
“We wore a lot of hats and did all our own community outreach,” she explained. “When I came here, I think they were pleasantly surprised at all the little things that I’ve been exposed to doing on the job. Not that I’m great at everything, but I know a little bit about a lot. It has really helped me to transition into this role. I learned the best skills of being an administrator there – what to do and what not to do.”
Also during this school year, she can draw upon her earlier experience as a math educator.
“We have a new math program here, so that’s a lot of work for the teachers,” she said. “I understand it because I’ve been there and I think that I can provide help.”
With a few months experience as principal, Provost confirmed her initial sense that Farley School is a comfortable fit for her.
“The people here are incredible, hardworking, dedicated – and they’re fun,” she said. “There’s a good community feel here. I’d like to stay here for as long as they’ll have me.”