By Kate Barcellos, Staff Writer for the Rutland Herald
CLARENDON — The Mill River Unified Union School District is bringing a Rutland City Public Schools veteran into the fold as the new assistant principal for Mill River Union High School.
But for Jennifer McLemore, the transition will be all too familiar: She previously worked as a student teacher with then history teacher Tyler Weideman at Rutland High School, and while pursuing her master’s degree at the College of St. Joseph, McLemore first taught with now-Sen. Cheryl Hooker at Mill River High School.
“I did some practicum work with her,” McLemore said. “I was lucky enough, right after I graduated, to get a job in this program.”
“Jennifer brings quality experience, local perspective and a tireless work ethic to her new role,” Weideman said in a release. “Each group that met with Jennifer viewed her without question as the best candidate for the role, and we are excited to have her joining us at MRUHS.”
McLemore begins her new job at MRUHS on July 1.
Originally from Fair Haven, McLemore graduated from UVM in 2004 with a degree in English and sociology, and she later completed master’s degree in education from College of St. Joseph.
McLemore became a semi-permanent fixture of the Howe Center’s RHS campus, a place she would come to call home for the full 10 years after she graduated, eventually rising to become the program’s team leader with the help of Jamie Holt, who started the program in 1989, Holt said.
“This is a wonderful program,” McLemore said. “This is one of the things I will miss the most.”
Always keeping her options open, McLemore started taking courses at CSJ toward her administrative license and later moved on to Castleton University for her courses, when she saw a position at Mill River open in February with the chance to work with another former faculty member at RHS.
“I knew Tyler, and knew he’d be a wonderful person to work under and sort of get my feet wet,” McLemore said.
On Wednesday, McLemore completed her first shadow day at MRUHS, and fondly recalled how happy and welcoming the staff and students were.
“I had to go through a student panel, a teacher and board panel, a parent panel, and they’re all really interested in growing the community,” McLemore said. “They were really thoughtful.”
Rather than come into the school armed with ideas for initiatives, McLemore said she’ll be a ready support system to shepherd the community as they develop individualized learning initiatives.
“My first few years here, I was teaching English,” McLemore said. “Then after Jamie Holt retired, she helped guide me to become the team leader here.”
The Howe Center campus caters to students who may not be able to learn or earn enough credits to get their degree in a traditional high school environment, making the student body a particularly driven and goal-oriented one with a much smaller student to teacher ratio.
“They’re willing to overcome a lot, because they know how important their education is,” McLemore said. “A lot of our learners are working, and we use that work experience and the curricular work to create a plan that’s individualized, so they get some credits from their experience in vocational training.”
McLemore helped continue the extensive course offerings at the Howe Center Campus to include everything except world languages and driver’s education, and helped bridge the gap between home and school in an age when students need more support from parents, faculty and the community.
“Students need to know where you stand and make sure you follow through,” McLemore said. “They need to understand they’re earning this.”
“There’s not a lot of ways to get out of poverty,” McLemore said. “Education is really important.”
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for her,” said Jamie Holt, one of the founders of the Howe Center RHS Campus program. “I think Mill River is very fortunate, but it will be a tremendous loss for this program.”
Since former principal Todd Finn left to assume his new position as superintendent of the Lewiston, Maine, school district, Weideman has been steering the ship at MRUHS as their new captain, and the sailing has been smooth through the transition.
New adventures await, Weideman said.
“The first month of my principalship has gone very well,” Weideman said in an email. “The day-to-day running of MRU has stayed the same, however I am starting to set time aside each day to work on larger, more long-term projects that coincide with our district initiatives.”