For Jennifer Miller, becoming principal at Center Road School, in Vernon, was a lot like coming home.
Miller grew up in Vernon, attended Center Road as a student, and later taught second and fifth grade at CRS, after a stint in the business world and returning to college to become an educator. She was resident principal at Maple Street School, working alongside Melissa Trantolo, and then was principal at Prudence Crandall Elementary School, in Enfield, for three years, before taking the job at CRS this year.
"My heart is in Vernon, so it's great to be back," Miller said, adding that she has felt more than welcomed. "It's been great. It's really been wonderful. Everyone is so open - parents, the PTO, and teachers. Everybody's really willing to share information... to set us up for a good start and a smooth transition."
Miller has spent part of the summer meeting the school community, including PTO meetings and a "popsicles with the principal" event at the school's playground. In the spring, she visited the school on Wednesdays, reading to classrooms and getting to know students.
"The kids are amazing. Every Wednesday, they'd say 'Good morning, Mrs. Miller!'" she said.
Miller said her plan is to start with the community, building relationships and getting to know more people, and finding out what areas, collectively, should be built on in the future.
Miller said she has just a few new faculty members this year, but also has a handful of teachers who she taught with years ago.
"It's a nice mix. Everybody brings something to the table. Having some diversity, different perspectives, and different levels of experience, is helpful," she said, adding that she hopes to bring a growth mindset to the school.
"Our job is to educate students as the whole child," she said. "So, we want them to be successful, and achieve growth, socially, emotionally, and academically. All families want their kids to be prepared for middle school and beyond, by the time they leave elementary school, and that's our job here. Everyone can achieve personal excellence, and that's what we strive for here. There's a strong spirit here of caring for children and working together."
Miller said she hopes to remain in Vernon, and at CRS, for as long as possible.