Longtime educator Tricia Campbell has taken a new position, closer to home and closer to her heart.
She is the new assistant principal of Boothbay Region Elementary School, replacing Brandon Ward, who has moved on to be the new principal at Bath Middle School.
For the past 18 years, Campbell has worked as a teacher in the Wiscasset school system in the special education department, also acting as head teacher. The head teacher is similar to the assistant principal role in Boothbay schools.
“It seemed so unattainable, but I wanted it so bad,” Campbell said. “I was so excited, reflecting on the opportunities I'd been given during my career, and I realized I was ready.”
Her interview was on a Tuesday afternoon. That evening, a call came in from Principal Mark Tess, who offered her the job. By that Thursday, she was on an administrative retreat.
“When I hung up the phone, I took a deep exhale, and just yelped,” Campbell said. “I was so thrilled. It literally felt like being called home; I knew it was right.”
Campbell didn't start off planning for a teaching career. It all started in 1995 when she accompanied her college roommate on a trip to Boothbay for the summer, where she worked in local restaurants and met Jason Campbell.
“I tried going home, but it didn't work,” Campbell said. “I knew I had to come back.”
Campbell was concerned about how she could stay in the area, as her employment at Gray's Wharf would be coming to an end with the summer tourist season. Her coworker, Holly White, told her about a teacher's aid position in Wiscasset.
“I knew nothing about education,” Campbell said. “The extent of my experience was teaching dance at a summer camp. But it was a chance at year-round employment, so I tried.”
She got the job, and as time went on, she found the job “really clicked” with her. She worked in the self-contained behavioral program, which worked with kids from 5th through 12th grades. Then one day, the director of the program approached her with a stack of papers and told her to sign them.
“It was an application to graduate school,” Campbell said. She'd done all the work, all I needed to do was sign. She really believed in me and it was just the sort of push I needed.”
That year Campbell began teaching with a conditional certification as she worked toward her master's degree in education at Lesley University. While the campus was located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the college had a cohort location in Kittery, which enabled her to both work and attend school at the same time.
“I was working in the resource room at the middle school, and loving what I was doing,” Campbell said. “I was learning fabulous skills from the teachers and helping students not just with learning, but also life skills and fulfilling emotional needs.”
For the past six years, Campbell was working as lead teacher. Though she loved teaching in the classroom, Campbell seemed destined for a leadership role in education — it was simply a question of when. At the end of the 2014-2015 school year, she was approached by colleagues who knew Brandon Ward was moving on.
“I didn't think I'd gotten there yet, but they told me “you have to apply for this” and it felt so right,” Campbell said. “I love Wiscasset. The encouragement, the people, the journey I'd taken. But it was a chance to grow in education. I had to take it.”
Campbell considers herself a “lifelong learner” and is looking forward to helping students in her new role. She said it is a challenge to work outside of the classroom, and misses the one-on-one interaction of teacher with student, but sees it as both a challenge and an honor.
“I've gone from having 40 students to 350,” Campbell said. “And I have a responsibility to all of them. I'm passionate about what I do, and want both students and parents to feel they can come to me with concerns, ideas, thoughts. My door is open and I want to hear from them.”
“I'm a member of this community. I'm a parent, and I have high expectations from our school system. I plan to work hard to hold that level of excellence I've come to expect.” Campbell’s daughters are second grader Rose Campbell and fifth grader Grace K. Campbell.
Campbell is enjoying her reduced commute, as she lives in Boothbay Harbor, a mere three minutes from the school. Her daughters are excited to have their mother at school every day, but were concerned about what to call her.
“They asked me if they should call me 'Mom' or ‘Mrs. Campbell,’” Campbell said. The answer came from their grandmother, Rose Campbell, who suggested: “Vice Principal Mom.”
“This whole experience has been amazing,” Campbell said. “Really, it's like meeting Jason all over again, finding my life path. I literally have not stopped smiling.”