CAPE ELIZABETH — After 22 years of teaching, Nate Carpenter decided to take the advice he usually gives to students and apply it to his own career.
His ambition and passion for education and inspiring kids is what led Principal Jeff Shedd to select Carpenter as Cape Elizabeth High School’s new assistant principal.
“He demonstrates someone who has been teaching over 20 years and still has the same passion that can get rubbed off over the years for other teachers,” Shedd said.
CEHS was in need of a new assistant principal after Troy Henninger, who held the position for six years, took a job at Harvard University. After several rounds of interviews and narrowing down the applicant pool, Shedd submitted Carpenter’s name to the superintendent of schools, who then interviewed Carpenter and recommended him to the School Board. The board hired Carpenter last month.
“I’m really looking forward to him continuing the positive student climate,” Shedd said. “The single theme of his interview was probably the importance of positive and respectful relationships with students.”
Carpenter agreed, and said these relationships are important for administrators and students.
“I want to be at a place that has great relationships with students,” he said. “I want to champion greatness in kids.”
Because positive relationships with students are also important to Shedd, he had seven CEHS students interview Carpenter as part of the application process. Shedd said the feedback was very positive.
“The message was that he came across as caring, genuine, and somebody who was very interested in what they had to say,” Shedd said. “The kids said they thought he’d be extremely approachable.”
Carpenter said he enjoyed being interviewed by students and it showed him that CEHS was where he wanted to work.
“It was almost instantly when I walked in that I knew it was the right fit for me,” Carpenter said. “Everything about this process has been a ‘meant to be’ kind of moment.”
Carpenter previously worked at Sacopee Valley High School in Hiram, as a teacher and track coach. Additionally, he taught a senior seminar class to prepare students for life after graduation. He said he helped kids go after what they were passionate about, and after hearing about the opening at CEHS, he decided to take his own advice.
“I’ve been inspiring and motivating kids for years and now it’s my turn to take the next step in my career,” Carpenter said.
Although Carpenter has never held an administrative position before, he had worked as a “quasi-administrator” at Sacopee Valley, he said. Shedd said that despite originally wanting to hire someone who had previously held an administrative position, Carpenter was the right person for the job.
“He didn’t have the title, but he had the skills that a good assistant principal brings to the job,” Shedd said.
The job will require Carpenter to check in on students and teachers, and to help Shedd evaluate teachers. Shedd said Carpenter’s experience as a teacher will be beneficial in this aspect of the position.
“He will understand not only the student perspective on issues, but the teacher perspective as well,” Shedd said.
The job will also require Carpenter to work with the disciplinary system, which is one thing that concerns him, he said.
“My biggest fear is that I don’t want to be that typical view of what an assistant principal looks like,” Carpenter said.
Shedd said he is excited to have someone who has experience at a different school joining the CEHS staff because it will provide a new perspective on how things are run.
“It’s always great to have an outsider come in and give insight and recommendations,” Shedd said.
Carpenter said this excites him, too, although he doesn’t want to overstep his boundaries.
“I think it’ll be beneficial to have someone come in and ask tough questions about why they do things the way they do,” he said. “I want to be reflective. I’m really hopeful that my style works there.”
Carpenter said he is most looking forward to working with students. He said his experience with them has led him to understand what they respond to, and that he’ll be able to use this to connect with students at CEHS.
“Kids are kids, whether they’re at Sacopee or Cape,” Carpenter said. “I think they want someone who believes in them.”