Mr. Stinson plugs on in spite of COVID-19

Matt+Stinson+has+had+the+unenviable+task+of+beginning+his+principalship+at+Myers+Elementary+during+the+middle+of+a+global+pandemic.

Haley Campbell

Matt Stinson has had the unenviable task of beginning his principalship at Myers Elementary during the middle of a global pandemic.

Emalee Strong, Staff Writer

The first year on the job will be tough on anybody, but tough doesn’t begin to describe the challenges faced by Matt Stinson, who is facing a global pandemic in his first year as a Bellwood-Antis Myers Elementary new principal. He’s dealt with many challenges other first-year principals have not, but kept a positive attitude through it all. The BluePrint spoke to Mr. Stinson and asked him about his first year on the job, hopes and concerns, and the prospect of educating during the COVID-19 era.

Blueprint: How have the first couple of weeks on your new job gone?

Mr. Stinson: The first couple of weeks went well.  It was great to see the students and teachers interacting again!  The classrooms were filled with learning and laughter.  We also had great interactions with our virtual students.  The teachers have spent a lot of time to make sure our face to face and virtual students had a great start to the year.  We are currently evaluating our procedures to adjust to concerns and needs.

Blueprint: How much have you have to change typical procedural plans?

Mr. Stinson: We had to tweak our lunch schedule and itinerants to ensure there was enough time to clean in between. I also met with our teachers before school to create a new schedule for the year.  They did a great job fitting in curriculum time and mask breaks for the students.  Currently, we are looking to make changes to our virtual instruction due to a large amount of students opting to come back face to face.

Blueprint: How prepared were you for this year?

Mr. Stinson: That is a great question!  In my experiences you are never truly prepared for everything.  There is always something that comes up you might not have accounted for.  However, when I sat down with various committees of teachers, we were able to put together a solid plan for the school year.  They are the true workhorses and together we have been able to address any issues that have come up.    The biggest preparation this year was our COVID procedures.  This was new for every school district, so we have planned for any situation as best we could. 

Blueprint: What are some of your plans for this year?

Mr. Stinson: My plans always include doing what is best for kids.  This year presents us with challenges that we, as educators, have not had to face in the past and while it is difficult for us, I do believe that our teachers are learning and growing along with the students every day.  We want to continue to provide opportunities for our students to grow and experience all the good things that school can be.  We will work towards hosting even more opportunities for students, staff, families, and our community to create moments that matter.

Blueprint: How would you describe  your leadership style?

Mr. Stinson: I am very critical of myself, and never satisfied.  I believe that I can always do better and it is important to learn as much as I can.  I have previous experience as an administrator, but I am learning district procedures and policies.  I believe that a true leader takes the blame and gives the credit.  I promise to always work to create an environment where the staffulty and students feel valued, appreciated and that their input in decisions is critical to OUR success.  I want each person that walks through our doors to know “YOU MATTER.”

Blueprint: How does the mask situation affect the little kids?

eachers have never had to deal with a situation like this in their teaching careers.  Despite the restrictions, our teachers have gone above and beyond to create as much of a normal experience as they can for both face-to-face and virtual students.”

— Mr. Stinson

Mr. Stinson: To be honest the students have done a fantastic job with their face coverings!  They have not complained and have had a wide variety of designs!  The teachers have built in “mask breaks” throughout the day to relieve them.  I am very proud of our Myers students!

Blueprint: How does managing classes during a pandemic affect the teachers?

Mr. Stinson: Teachers have never had to deal with a situation like this in their teaching careers.  Despite the restrictions, our teachers have gone above and beyond to create as much of a normal experience as they can for both face-to-face and virtual students.  As a classroom teacher for 17 years, I understand the enormous task of day to day planning and preparation in a “normal” year and this year is anything but normal.  There is an added layer of stress because the staff at Myers has set the bar so high and they want to do all they can to accommodate each and every student, every single day. 

Blueprint: How have COVID-19 guidelines affected you, since it’s your first year as a principal?

Mr. Stinson: The transition from Altoona Area School District to Bellwood-Antis in the middle of a pandemic has not been without struggles; however, I do believe that with an open line of communication that many issues can be fixed before they turn into problems.  I have always prided myself on transparency and having an open door policy with students, staff, parents and community members.  Despite the first year learning curve, I am blessed to be in this district and to work collaboratively with my staff to do what’s best for kids. 

Blueprint: What concerns do you have this year?

Mr. Stinson: Our main concern is always safety of our staff and students.  With that being said, due to the nature of the illness, I feel that we may experience an outbreak and that we will lose the ability to interact with our kids daily.  The first three weeks, while anything but normal, have given all of  us a chance to build the necessary relationships with our students.  Our students come to school wanting to learn, wanting to have the structure of a normal school day, and wanting to build friendships and create memories.  These relationships and bonds will continue to be created and will be so beneficial should the structure of the school day need to be changed

Blueprint: What hopes do you have for this year?

Mr. Stinson: My hope is that our students and staff know how important they are and how much they are loved and valued. We want to provide a positive learning environment for our face to face and virtual students.  The teachers have gone above and beyond to provide for all students.   I can say, without a doubt, that Myers Elementary School is the best elementary school around!

Blueprint: How does recess go with the little kids?

Mr. Stinson: Social time in elementary school is essential for learning.   We had to space out our students using al the fields and playground around us.  The students have done a fabulous job.  Staffulty is monitoring and reminding students to observe distancing requirements.  Recess is such an important time for socialization which is crucial in the development of young children we want to make sure they have those experiences while also respecting personal space.

Blueprint: Have students adjusted well to the new rules? 

Mr. Stinson: The students deserve a HUGE shoutout for their patience and effort in following our new guidelines.  They have done an amazing job.  When I walk in the hallways and visit classrooms, you can feel their excitement even with the masks on.  I am proud of our students and staffulty for all their hard work!