New principal named for Winooski Catholic school
Craig Hill has found that building positive relationships, providing consistent and honest feedback and modeling compassion leads to a “chill” environment.
People often make the “chill” connection because his email address at St. Francis Xavier School in Winooski begins with his first initial and his last name: chill.
“I’ve learned people like to know what to expect and when to expect, and setting positive expectations leads to a positive environment,” said the newly named principal of the school, currently a teacher there. “I’ve also found that people appreciate my level of devotion to our mission. I know when to work hard, and I know when to be silly. I tell bad jokes. Just ask my current middle school students.”
Hill has been selected to succeed the current principal, Eric Becker, effective June 12.
Hill earned a bachelor’s degree in education (cum laude) from Gwynedd-Mercy University and earned highly qualified teaching status in Vermont. He has 15 years of teaching experience at the elementary, middle and high school levels and has supervised student council, service projects, soccer, basketball, cross country and chess clubs.
He worked in an alternative school for seven years in Philadelphia before moving to Vermont in 2012. In the alternative school, he taught students who were experiencing drug addiction, unsafe family experiences and trauma. “That experience deepened my understanding of Christ’s mission of love and forgiveness,” he said. “I learned that with patience, compassion, consistency and honesty all students can learn, particularly if someone believes in them.”
St. Francis Xavier has a reputation for academic excellence, and one of Hill’s goals as principal will be to strengthen this reputation even more by encouraging teacher growth. “Students have experienced a plethora of challenges over the last year. These challenges include building positive relationships with their teachers despite the need for social distancing in the classroom and understanding academic and classroom expectations after the challenge of distance learning last spring,” he said. “I think the staff at St. Francis Xavier has addressed these needs well, in particular because we have had kids in the classroom five days a week since the beginning of the20 20-21 school year.”
It is his goal to support teachers as they move into the new school year by providing engaging professional development related to students’ learning needs.
“I want the students at St. Francis Xavier to grow into confident 21st-century learners — able to regulate their own learning, set goals for themselves and make plans to meet those goals,” said the incoming principal who enjoys hiking and “simply hanging out” with his wife and three children. “I also want them to leave the school with an understanding of the value of their faith and the importance of service to others.”
St. Francis Xavier School has a diverse student population with students from throughout the Winooski area and beyond including from Congo, Rwanda, Vietnam, Greece, Italy, Japan and South Korea. That diversity enhances the educational experience. “As disciples of Christ it is our duty to sow the seeds of universal friendship and peace. We must teach and live out our Gospel values and treat everyone with dignity,” Hill said. “At our school we frequently offer students the opportunity to engage in learning about cultural differences and to reflect on embracing our similarities as human beings.”
International Night, a yearly event as part of the curriculum, is one example. The event offers the school community the opportunity to explore cultural diversity and learn about history, traditions, art, literature, government, religions and much more about different countries.
As principal, Hill will focus on implementing and following the school mission: “We are a Catholic school. Our mission is to educate the whole person in light of the Catholic faith and lead students to an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. We provide a comprehensive preschool through 8th-grade educational program that promotes Christian values, academic excellence and personal responsibility in a safe, structured, and Christ-centered environment.”
This mission is why he wants to focus on the value of service to others. “It is also why I want to encourage students to become independent learners with the self-discipline to reach their goals,” he said. “A child’s education does not begin or end in the classroom. Classroom teaching, therefore, is not just about educating students on matters of academia, but on preparing children to become good disciples of Christ. To accomplish this goal, in my opinion, the most important qualities of an outstanding educator are a caring attitude, the ability to adapt, and a commitment to self-reflection and life-long learning.”