SWANTON — After seven years as the principal of Fletcher Elementary School, Chris Dodge will be moving to a new post in the Missisquoi Valley School District as Swanton Elementary School’s new principal.
A Worcester, Vermont native, Dodge comes to the school as an educator, counselor and artist all in one.
Like many educators, his mission was a generational one handed down from his mother, who taught elementary grades in Wolcott, and Dodge pursued his bachelor’s degree in both elementary education and art.
His first job was as a fourth grade teacher in Greensboro, but the second-generation teacher was destined for a higher position. After acquiring his master’s degree in counseling, Dodge served as a school counselor at Berlin Elementary School, and subsequently had the opportunity to try out a brand new role as assistant principal.
“That was me dipping my toes in administration,” Dodge said. “And I loved it … (so) I went back to school to get my principal’s license.”
Having previously taught at Cambridge and Hardwick elementary schools, Dodge’s newfound career would take him first to Fayston Elementary School before returning to his neighborhood school in Berlin to serve as principal there.
His grounding, driving passion for the arts developed in various directions as his educational career blossomed, and Dodge nurtured writing, photography and pottery-throwing as his hobbies, taking comfort too in gardening and being outdoors.
“I love any opportunity to connect with my creativity and desire to express myself,” Dodge said. “I love getting my hands dirty.”
In addition to gaining a seasoned administrator to replace outgoing principal Dena St. Amour, Swanton’s students will now have what Fletcher Elementary School has for years: a potter for a principal with a mental-health background.
This change for both Swanton and Dodge comes after the year of ultimate change, where teachers were required to adapt and learn completely new methods and strategies to do what they’ve always done for years. That growth has come with its own sets of trauma and scarring.
But Dodge said he’s optimistic, and said he sees the immediate growth and change in the school as a positive opportunity, one that has the potential to bring with it immense success for the students, the staff and the community.
At the end of the day, Dodge said his mindset is first an empathetic one, and urged sympathy and gentleness in times of transition like the previous year, especially in the school system.
Generalization, Dodge said, was where children and people could be lost. He said the questions people ask one another in times of growth and not were integral to a successful and strengthened bond between teachers, friends and community, and successful student recovery plans.
“You must be kind to people,” Dodge said. “It’s all about developing relationships. Everything we do relies on the relationships we build.”