BUCKLAND — Sheryl Stanton, the new superintendent of Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont Regional school districts, may never have found a career in education if it h a d n’t been for a college course mix-up and a teacher who made a difference.
“I mis-registered for a class,” she said, laughing. “It was a combination of an English language arts course and an education course. … I needed one more class to graduate, and I was like, ‘Fine, I’ll take it.’ I was just trying to finish my bachelor’s degree.”
But the professor of that course changed the way Stanton viewed teaching — a field she had never considered as a potential career path.
“My world was rocked,” Stanton recalled. “I could be a teacher.”
Stanton was a good student, she said, but like so many students, she knew what it was like to struggle in a class, or even to fail.
“I have a real sensitive spot for kids who don’t do well,” she said. “I knew I had to do it, but I didn’t understand why learning was so important.”
Her professor at the University of Connecticut helped her to understand. She said if she could get students to realize the importance of education sooner, “we could really make a shift in education.”
From that class forward, she said, “it was off to the races.”
Stanton completed her master’s degree in 18 months from Elms College, and in 2006, she took a position as an instructional leadership coach at a turn-around school in Springfield.
Stanton recalled the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) coming to her school with questions and concerns about programs she couldn’t address or wasn’t familiar with.
Stanton said she was drawn to the Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont school districts because of her love for both public and rural education.
“I’ve always said your ZIP code should not influence the quality of education you receive,” she said. “Rural schools need that strong advocacy — they’re at a disadvantage in the state formula.”
Stanton, a resident of Colrain, has been involved for several years with the Massachusetts Rural Schools Coalition, an organization that aims to address the financial challenges rural schools face.
She said her experience at Granby Public Schools — another rural district where leveraging resources and developing strong community relationships was essential to her role — prepared her for her new position as superintendent of the Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont regional school districts.