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NES Assistant Principal Monahan Never Stops Learning

Lisa Monahan had a love of learning back in her early childhood days, and to this day that passion continues to shape and guide her as an educator and as the assistant principal of the Narragansett Elementary School.

It’s certainly not uncommon to choose a career path early on in college, only to change gears along the way when realizing it wasn’t the right decision.  Narragansett Elementary School Assistant Principal Lisa Monahan chose a business and advertising major, but she learned soon enough that it wasn’t for her.

Education was her real calling and she said it didn’t surprise a lot of people who knew her growing up, because she was always known for playing school with her stuffed animals, dolls and the other neighborhood kids. 

Once on her new career path there was no turning back, and Monahan instantly fell in love with all things learning and teaching.  Ironically, her first teaching experience began at NES, when she was a student teacher in 1986 with two of our beloved retired teachers, Tom Sylvia and Marcia Grady. 

“I learned so much when I was in their classrooms, I just knew teaching was what I was meant to do,” Monahan said.

Her teaching career started in 1987, where she taught in Greenville at St. Aloysius School for four years and then moved on to a position in Westerly.  She notes that her job in Westerly was pivotal to her position now as an assistant principal, because she was trained and certified to become a literacy assistant, something she is genuinely passionate about. 

Teaching has also taken her to international schools in the Dominican Republic and Brazil. 

“I’ve had so many fantastic educators in my life that have inspired me to teach as well as to never stop learning,” Monahan said. 

Later she taught in California and was a literacy coach there for grades K to sixth. She then returned to Rhode Island and taught fellow teachers at Salve Regina in Newport.

Elementary education is where her heart truly is, so when the position for the assistant principal became available at NES, she was excited for the chance to apply and even more thrilled when she got the job!  This is her fourth year at NES and she is looking forward to many more.

"Her presence in the school is a combination of positive warmth and determination.  She's easily approachable and is willing to work outside the box to help our students have the best elementary learning education possible," shares an NES teacher who asked to remain anonymous.

“Being a part of this school community is my favorite part of the job,” Monahan said. “The kids are awesome, our teachers and staff are super dedicated, and our parents and families are very caring and involved.  I am always happy to walk in our NES doors every day and come to work.”

As much as she loves her job and all that goes with it, she is candid about the challenges they face as a school, especially with upcoming budget plans and cuts in the works. 

“I think the biggest obstacle we have is fitting everything in to our time schedules each day. There is so much to teach, so much to learn and we just don’t have the luxury of the time we’d like to be able to carve out of each busy day.”

Presently, Monahan and the rest of the Narragansett School District are excited about the Common Core standards that are being adapted in Rhode Island and 39 other states in the country. 

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators and other experts to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare children for college and the workforce.

“It makes perfect sense to provide teachers and parents with a common understanding of what students are expected to learn. Consistent standards will provide appropriate benchmarks for all students.  If we are all on the same page, students will be able to learn more effectively,” Monahan said. 

She said that hopefully, the Common Core Standards will be in place by 2014.

When she is not working, organizing, leading, teaching and interacting with the staff and student body at NES, Monahan is the busy mom to her 14-year-old daughter, Mari, who attends middle school in South Kingstown. 

You might also find her whipping up a culinary delight in the kitchen, because she enjoys cooking, especially learning about other cultures through their recipes. 

“I admit it, the Food Channel and Travel Channels are two of my favorite ways to unwind,” she said, laughing. 

And of course, what would kind of a literacy coach would she be if she didn’t take pleasure in reading?  Books are another favorite pastime for this assistant principal.

Besides the fact that she is just crazy about education and all that it entails, she also admits that she feels so lucky to be working with the teachers and staff at NES. 

“We have such a great group of personalities, teaching styles, and devoted people who make up our staff. It really is a fun place to work, and I am very grateful for that.”

If there is one piece of advice she would leave parents with at the end of each day, it would be to listen to your kids when they tell you what they’re learning, their ideas, their thoughts and feelings. 

“So often we are all rushed in our day-to-day lives that we think we’re listening when our kids are talking but we usually have several other things going on in our minds at the same time. Find that few minutes of uninterrupted time to connect with them as often as possible so you and your children can keep learning and growing together.”

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