Brunswick principal wins Catholic education award

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BRUNSWICK — When Principal Andree Benoit Tostevin is having a stressful day at school, she knows exactly what to do.

She heads to the kindergarten classrooms at St. John’s Catholic School, she said, to visit with “our little guys, the 4-year-olds.”

“They just bring it all back, they put it in perspective” Tostevin said. “It’s just about kids and learning and great teachers.”

It’s hard not to be wowed by Tostevin’s obvious love for her job. Phrases like “kids are amazing” and “every day something wonderful happens” just bubble up and out of her.

And now, after 33 years as a principal, her compassion and commitment to education have landed her the Distinguished Principal Award from the National Catholic Education Association for New England.

Tostevin is modest when discussing the award. “I’m very humbled by it,” she said. She said she believes the award belongs to St. John’s, which she describes as “a great little school.”

“(The award) is about the school as a community,” Tostevin said, “and I happen to be the leader of this community.”

Before coming to St. John’s six years ago, Tostevin served as principal of St. Joseph School in Lewiston. Before that she was a principal in Bath, where she was named a distinguished educator by the Maine State Department of Education.

While ultimately feeling more at home in a Catholic school, Tostevin said she is grateful to have worked in public schools for the opportunity to experience different styles of education.

“I haven’t spent my whole life working in Catholic schools, and that’s a blessing,” she said.

Tostevin spent many years as a teacher before making the jump to administration. While she loved teaching, she said she prefers her role now because it offers more variety.

“I have to have change every day, something has to be new. That’s how I thrive. The classroom is wonderful, but think of how many age groups I work with now?” she said.

Tostevin said she embraces all aspects of her job, even the parts that others might find daunting, like budgeting.

She said she has enjoyed learning “how to work with a little bit of money and make that money go a little longer and further. … It’s just fun, it’s fun for me.”

She also loves working with students who misbehave.

“Very few kids are really difficult,” she said.

“Kids need to know that they have control over what they do,” Tostevin said. “And when the light bulb goes on and you see a change in them, that’s really very special.”

While it’s possible to hear the smile in Tostevin’s voice when she talks about how much she loves her students, she turns serious when talking about her duties as an educator.

“It’s an awesome responsibility people who work in schools with kids have,” she said, “and I take that very seriously.”

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net

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Andree Benoit Tostevin, principal at St. John’s Catholic School in Brunswick, is the recipient of the 2011 Distinguished Principal Award from the National Catholic Education Association for New England.

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