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Jennifer Sinal Named Sandy Hook School Assistant Principal



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Jennifer Sinal Named Sandy Hook

School Assistant Principal

By Eliza Hallabeck

As the new school year approached, former eighth grade English teacher at Newtown Middle School Jennifer Sinal stepped into her new position as assistant principal at Sandy Hook School.

The position was left open when Barbara Gasparine became Head O’ Meadow Elementary School principal over the summer. Prior to taking the position at Sandy Hook School, Ms Sinal was a faculty member of the 8 Blue Cluster at NMS.

“Being a teacher at the middle school was a privilege,” said Ms Sinal recently. “The six years I spent there, I developed such an incredible skill set of not only instructional strategies and how to work effectively with people, but I was mentored by incredible, incredible individuals.”

NMS Principal Diane Sherlock has been her model as an administrator, and being a teacher in NMS Cluster 8 Blue was like being a part of a family, she said.

Ms Sinal said she is excited to be at Sandy Hook School now, and still in Newtown, “Where I am so invested with the kids, the parents, and the philosophy, which perfectly aligns with who I want to be, not only as a teacher but also as an administrator.”

So much of her identity, she admitted, while at NMS was tied into her position of drama director at the school, “And it was an incredible run.”

The Stratford native began her teaching career as an intern at Stratford’s Harry B. Flood Middle School working with Bob Chester, who she says was another incredible leader she was lucky to work with.

“He taught me a lot about what I know,” she said, “what it is to be an effective teacher, the importance of differentiation, the importance of building strong rapport with kids, meeting them where they are, supporting them, and helping them grow.”

She taught at the middle school for a year, until Mr Chester left to teach at Haddam-Killingworth High School, and she followed him to work there for two years.

“In the meantime,” she said, “I had been teaching summer school for Newtown. It’s really an interesting story. One of the teachers I taught with in Stratford was working here for Elissa Gellis. And I called her and she said, ‘Hey. I have an open position here at the middle school. Would you like to come and interview here?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely.’ Got the job, and it’s interesting because my time in summer school led me to my summer administrative work, also with Elissa. So I owe her a big credit for seeing my potential.”

And six years ago, Mr Sinal was placed in NMS Cluster 8 Blue as the English teacher.

“Then four years ago was when I was partnered with [Cluster 8 Blue social studies teacher] Phil Cruz,” said Ms Sinal, “and that was when we started doing the collaborative approach to instruction through concepts and melding our language arts and social studies curricula.”

Working with Mr Cruz, she said, she learned how to work with a partner.

“Per [NMS Principal] Diane Sherlock, everything starts with the partnership,” said Ms Sinal, “and it starts with the trust, and the respect, and we had that in a very genuine way.”

Both Ms Sherlock and Mr Cruz, she said, will be lifelong mentors to her.

“I love teaching,” said Ms Sinal, smiling. “I do. I love curriculum and instruction, and seeing growth overtime.”

There is nothing like the buzz of the “organized chaos” of a classroom, according to Ms Sinal.

“As an administrator over the summer I got to see a little bit more of that,” she said. “There is something very special about making it happen, but there is also something very special about creating a culture where it is encouraged to happen. This school is a fantastic school. It has a wonderful reputation, and I know that I am going to learn a lot here.”

Assistant Superintendent Linda Gejda and Ms Gellis, Ms Sinal said, both helped to cultivate her administrative career. Everyone, including new Sandy Hook School Principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, has been wonderful since Ms Sinal began her position, and she said her door is open if anyone wishes to visit her.

“Come on down and say hello anytime,” said Ms Sinal. “I am here.”

Ms Sinal said she hopes her passion and enthusiasm for education will influence an even larger scope of students than when she was in the classroom.

“The hope is to take the last ten years, and share the love that I have for this profession,” said Ms Sinal. “I love education, I do. I love and respect it.”

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