By Cheryl Conway
Students, teachers and faculty at Mt. Olive Middle School in Budd Lake will be greeted by a new leader come September when they start their next school year.
Matt Robinson, 35, of Netcong, has been hired by the Mt. Olive Board of Education to serve as the new MOMS principal. With a starting date for August 13, he will be replacing Susan Breton who will continue in the district but as the director of curriculum and instruction.
Having had attended Mt. Olive schools throughout his youth, Robinson looks forward to returning home but as a professional in the educational field.
“I want to come back to Mt. Olive,” says Robinson. “I want to give back to the district that gave me so much. I’m just excited for the opportunity.
“I really admire what Larrie Reynolds has done over 10 years,” he continues, to go from a “good district” to a “great district” and to be recognized on a national level. “It’s an exciting place to be.”
Robinson graduated Mt. Olive High School in 2001 and attended both the middle school, as well as Sandshore Elementary School. When Robinson attended MOMS its location was Chester M. Stephens Elementary School before the new middle school was built.
He went onto Ramapo where he earned a bachelor’s in history, followed by a post bachelorette degree in teaching from William Patterson and a master’s in education leadership from the College of Saint Elizabeth.
For the past two years he has served as the superintendent of Stillwater Twp. School in Sussex County.
Its own district, there is one school in grades pre-K through sixth with 300 students. Before that he was the assistant principal there for two years.
Prior to working at Stillwater Twp., Robinson was a fifth grade history and language arts teacher at South Orange-Maplewood Tuscan Elementary School for eight years.
Robinson looks forward to making an impact at a larger populated school with 1,200 students at MOMS compared to 300 at Stillwater, he says.
“To influence the lives of 1,200 kids, which is a huge responsibility, that’s something exciting for me,” says Robinson. His mom, Joanne Robinson, has been school secretary for the past 15 years at Sandshore Elementary.
“We were always involved in school,” says Robinson. “Education is always something that intrigued me. I always saw myself in school; I always loved school; it’s something I’ve always been good at. It was my goal from day one to be a teacher. It’s great to be there for kids who need you.”
Robinson’s goals as principal is to try to encourage personalized learning for students, to improve “how they connect with others, embracing cultures” for the purpose of conversation and “understanding one another. Teaching students how to get along with each other is probably the most important thing we can do at this point.” One idea is to use data on performance as well as social data in order to personalize education for each child, he says.
Another goal is to work on visible learning objectives so work is tangible. Students can come with a product and use debates, projects or slideshows, “to collaborate in groups or research on their own to
show what they learned.”
Working in education has been enjoyable for Robinson as he looks forward to his next venture.
“Having a vision, implementing that vision into student learning,” has been his satisfaction, and doing that at an even larger school “is going to be a wonderful thing.”
He looks forward to connecting with the teachers in Mt. Olive as well.
“We are still learners,” he says. “I’m going to learn from them, they are going to learn from me. We have to adapt, be flexible, work together for the welfare of the students.”
He realizes he will be “filling some big shoes of Susan Breton.” He hopes to build on “what’s already started, putting my own spin on it. As far as challenges, I don’t see it; I just see a wonderful opportunity.
I’m really excited to get started.”