By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
Though she has been with the St. Matthew’s Parish School community on an interim basis since May, Dr. Monica Gillespie has now accepted a position as the school’s permanent principal for its early childhood students in preschool through fourth grade.
“My passion for education—really at the heart of it—is our early childhood learners,” she shared. “Everything is so new and fresh for them in their growth and development. Being able to partner with parents on their child’s educational journey is a real privilege.”
Gillespie brings with her a variety of experience, having worked with students in preschool through high school, as well as at the collegiate level in undergraduate through graduate.
She shared that she began her career as an educator by accident.
“I was actually headed to law school and taking a year off from college,” Gillespie explained to the Palisadian-Post. “I worked at a summer program at a boarding school in Virginia, and I fell in love with teaching.”
Gillespie began in the classroom, moving into administration at a relatively young age: She became a head of school when she was 34, serving in that position for 14 years at several different campuses.
“I got to a point in my life where I realized I wanted to spend more time with children and teachers and parents, and to do that, I needed to make a big change so I could really be on the front lines of what we do in schools,” Gillespie said. “That’s when I became a principal.”
Most recently, she worked for three years as head of upper school at Francis Parker School in San Diego County. Entering her 30th year in education at St. Matthew’s has been nothing short of a dream, she shared.
Gillespie said one of the compelling reasons for her to join the school was the fact that it is a episcopal campus. She said episcopal schools are known for being strong, inclusive, and focused on community and character.
“Our values here … are very aligned with who I am,” she said.
St. Matthew’s has had its early childhood students on campus since the start of the school year and has slowly been able to return more of its students throughout the year, running a hybrid model. Gillespie said it’s been an “extraordinary” journey being able to help children both in their education and socio-emotional growth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Children are remarkable and so resilient,” she said. “I’ve been so impressed with how much learning is happening.”
Currently the school is in the admissions process, and Gillespie said she is looking forward to learning more about the students joining the school’s community. Her goals are to continue to build relationships with students and teachers in the community, and help children thrive as they learn in this tumultuous time.
“I think my goal as a newly appointed permanent principal is to continue to build on the strengths of St. Matthew’s school: the academic strength, the strength of community and character,” Gillespie said to the Post. “My hope is that I’m complementing what’s happening and helping our community continue to evolve into its best self.
“2021 will be here soon, 2020 will be in the rear-view mirror … looking ahead, it’s celebrating all the things that we have to be grateful for, and we have so many.”
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