Andrew Gibson will take over next school year as principal of Amherst Junior High School. We told you previously how he was hired — now it’s time to get to know him.
We spent 15 minutes chatting with Gibson to learn more about who he is and what he values. Here are some key excerpts from the conversation:
Family: Wife Gina and children Mason, Reed, Mallory, and Cecilia
Education: Firelands High School, Ashland University
A lot of Amherst folks know you and told us they were happy to see you hired. What’s your relationship been with the city and school system?
“I’ve been really fortunate to come across a lot of people. I grew up in South Amherst. In youth sports, a lot of times we’d interact with Amherst teams, so I got to know a lot of people there.
“I started coaching in Firelands in 2002; I was assistant boys (varsity) soccer coach for two years. Then I was boys soccer coach for three years. From there, I went on to be the goalkeeper coach for St. Edwards, then Keystone athletic director. After I left the AD job to go full-time into the classroom, I coached the Firelands varsity girls for one year and then we had an opening at Keystone for the varsity boys, so I moved into that position.”
What was it that attracted you to the Amherst Junior job? What potential do you see for the students and grades in the building?
“The biggest thing for me was I talked to people who graduated from Amherst, who know (principal Ryan Coleman) and know (vice principal Rhonda Neuhoff) and know the staff. You hear nothing but great things. You hear only great things about the building, about the teachers, about the administration, about (superintendent Steven Sayers) and (educational services director Michael Molnar) at the main office.
“I was able to pair everything I knew from growing up right next door in South Amherst — knowing what Amherst was all about and talking to people about the great things that are going on right now — into knowing I wanted to take the job.”
You haven’t been a principal long. What have you learned at Columbia Middle School that you hope to bring to Amherst?
“The biggest thing that’s been reaffirmed to me is just the importance of communicating with parents, keeping parents in the loop. These are kids who are growing up in a world that’s in some ways far too advanced for them to grasp at their age.”
Gibson said parents, teachers, and principals each get to see only a slice of a student’s day. “It’s kind of like a three-piece puzzle. We don’t get to see all the pieces, we have to put them together,” he said, which is why he finds it important to be in constant communication.
You’re coming to the junior high at a time when grades will be moving around during construction. Are you worried at all about how chaotic next year could be?
“No. You know what? It’s funny. One of my principals used to describe my classroom as ‘controlled chaos.’ Kids like controlled structure, but you can’t prevent things from going outside the way they were planned. One of the biggest things for next year is understanding it’s going to be an adjustment for everybody.”
Sixth-graders will be the “new kids” in their building for the second year in a row, so they’re going to support in adjusting, Gibson said. “We need to make sure we’re a resource for those kids.”
Teachers will have a big responsibility to build relationships with students in a way that makes everyone feel comfortable at the junior high. “With all the chaos going on around us, we have to provide that structure in the school setting and build those relationships so that if kids start to struggle they know they have someone to go to,” he said.
The goal will be to provide a safe, warm, friendly environment that creates a sense of stability and keeps attention on learning, not on big machines being used to build the new Powers Elementary next door to Amherst Junior High, said Gibson.
What are some of your personal interests? Hobbies?
“My most important thing is my family. I’m really blessed to have an amazing wife who’s an incredible teacher herself and is a great wife and mother. If our kids play a sport, undoubtedly, you’ll see one of us coaching the team.
“My escape from the stress of work is my kids. I ran my first half-marathon last year. I don’t look like a half-runner, but I was able to fight through that both physically and mentally… I like being healthy, I like being outside, and I like being with my kids and doing the things they like to do because they grow up way too fast.”
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.