Former Bragg School principal’s storied career

By Jillian Risberg

Retired Bragg School principal Michele Stanton considers herself lucky and blessed to have worked in the Chester Schools for 33 years.

“With wonderful colleagues, supportive families and incredible children was an honor,” Stanton says she spent years as a teacher, district math coach, Dean of Students/Supervisor of Instruction at Black River Middle School, and then the last 10 years as principal at Bragg. “Each of these roles helped me be a better educator and person, and for that I am grateful.”

For her impact on children, she was touched that the PTO honored her with a bench at the school when she retired in July.

“Having a place for students to hang out while outside, giving them a comfortable and available place to be with friends for a respite is a wonderful addition to Bragg’s blacktop area,” the former principal says.

Transitioning back to Bragg as the Principal was a dream homecoming for Stanton. Over the course of that decade, they endured SuperStorm Sandy, PARCC, Common Core and COVID.

Chester School principals, along with Superintendent Dr. Christina Van Woert were later presented with the Friends of Education Award from MCCEA.

“Having Van Woert, Melissa Fair-Esposito (Dickerson’s principal) and Andrew White (BRMS’s Principal) as continual mentors and advisors made all the difference,” says Stanton.

She recalls many school memories and says Bragg’s staff always allowed her to stretch her wings and apply new strategies.

“A few things as a teacher that come to mind are putting on classroom plays or school-wide talent shows, facilitating Family Science Nights, supporting Peer Mediators, writing curriculum, creating cross-curriculum projects, working at the state level on testing/ curriculum, and going to SEEC (Space Exploration Educators Conference) in Houston as a presenter.”

According to the former principal, as an educator it is daunting to know the impression one leaves can be lasting, so she always worked to make it a positive one.

“We all strive to build competence and confidence and I truly hope I was able to do so,” says Stanton, who worked with more than 2,700 students over the course of her career. “I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of my former students and I am proud to have had even a little influence on the amazing adults they have become.”

Being able to talk with the children about their thoughts, feelings and learning was inspiring. She says she could walk into any classroom and see educators orchestrating engaged learners, speak with staff members about best practices and was met with enthusiasm for their craft.

“The forward-thinking administrative team worked collaboratively for the betterment of the entire district — the PTO, Educational Foundation and Board of Education were all focused on children first,” says Stanton.

When it came to following a path in education, Stanton felt she was born to be a teacher. Growing up she tutored others, received her Girl Scout Gold Award for organizing and running a math tutoring program in her high school, always had a love of learning — and found a fun way to do it.

“I did not start out with the intention of being a principal but realized I could affect change on a larger level in this role, and was encouraged to do so,” she says. “Although I still believe I am a teacher at heart.”

Her next chapter is yet to be determined.

Stanton says she’s currently exploring many possibilities, primarily getting to see family, traveling, baking, saying ‘yes’ instead of ‘I can’t, I have work’ and then who knows.

She cites others who were an integral part of her journey, from the moment she entered Bragg in 1989 until she left this summer.

“My husband Bob, and children Nicole and Matthew have always helped and supported my projects, studies and work,” says the former principal. “The encouragement and assistance from mentors was key in any success I may have had. And I am grateful for the laughter, tears, and friendships formed with colleagues in the past 33 years.”


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