North Branford Patch: Where did you go to high school?
Todd Stoeffler: I went to a school not much smaller than North Branford called Shepaug Valley High School, it’s a regional school in the northwestern corner of Connecticut.
North Branford Patch: What were you like as a high school student?
Stoeffler: I had connections across a lot of different peer groups. I was involved with sports, but I wasn’t a phenomenal athlete. But I had very good friends who were all-state athletes. I also had friends who were interested in being mechanics. I’m really glad that I was able to connect with different types of people at a younger age because that’s allowed me to have the skills to connect with more adults in my career.
North Branford Patch: When you were a student, did any teachers have a big influence on you?
Stoeffler: One person who had a big impact on me was my high school basketball coach. He taught us a lot of things beyond sports, like how to deal with people, how to treat people, how to be organized and how to communicate. All of those nuances, you can’t just read a book to acquire those skills. I’m still in contact with him to this day.
North Branford Patch: What made you decide to go into education?
Stoeffler: One thing I did in high school that I think had an impact was I worked for the recreation department, I worked for some summer camps and on Saturday mornings, I worked for the recreation department doing basketball leagues for younger students. I think that had an impact on me wanting to have some sort of career working with younger people. I’m the kind of person who takes opportunities as they come along. I didn’t have a concrete plan. I knew that I didn’t want to have the same type of job for 35 years, but I knew that I wanted to be involved with schools in some capacity.
North Branford Patch: What was your first job in education?
Stoeffler: I taught at an independent school in Fairfield for three years. Then I taught health ed at North Haven High School for 10 years.
North Branford Patch: What was the transition from teacher to administrator like?
Stoeffler: What was positive about it was that I found that the students in and North Haven were similar so I was familiar with the students and with getting to know them. What was a challenge was that I needed to learn a whole new environment. Sometimes learning a whole new environment, including the people and the inner workings of the school district, is just as hard as learning a new job. So this latest transition, going from assistant principal to principal, I felt very confident about because I know the system at this point and I had a taste for different parts of the job. Of course it’s a bigger responsibility and more things to do, but the transition was a little easier because of my experience and knowing the setting.
North Branford Patch: What is your philosophy when it comes to education?
Stoeffler: I think at a high school level, we are preparing students for the next level. Our primary task is to get them ready for their post-secondary plans. Another important job that we have is getting them ready for the next stage of life beyond the classroom. That means being positive people and having integrity, having organization skills and communication skills to be a productive member of society. If school was just about the content, then we could just hand students a book they could take a test, but it’s much more than that.
North Branford Patch: Could you describe a typical day in the life of a principal?
Stoeffler: Being an administrator is a little like being a coach in that every day is different. There are times when my day is primarily meetings with faculty, staff, students or parents. There are times during the year when my day is just planning the budget. There are parts of the day when I’m in the classrooms doing teacher observations. That’s something that I really enjoy doing because that keeps me connected to the staff and to the students. There are days when I work on special projects like the courtyard or the greenhouse.
North Branford Patch: What is the most challenging part of your job?
Stoeffler: For now, one of the more challenging parts is the seniors who are on the fence with graduation. You don’t want parents to be blindsided. Powerschool, the online grading system, allows parents to better monitor their students and students monitor themselves more closely. It’s been a great tool. But for the seniors who are on the fence of making it or not making it, we typically have meetings with parents to make that one last push to help students make it. At this point in the school year, that’s the hardest part. You want everyone to be successful, but you also have to maintain the integrity of the curriculum and the school. When a student does not make it, we do assist them in whatever plans they need to make in making up the credit in the summer.
North Branford Patch: What is the most satisfying part of your job?
Stoeffler: The growth I’ve been able to see in the seniors, having gotten to know some of them as freshmen as the assistant principal. The growth that I’ve seen in them over the past four years and the maturity and how they respond as young adults in the building to situations better than they used to. I’ve had a few of them approach me with different insights and compliments that were flattering. As you know, teenagers don’t offer up much unless they really believe what they’re saying, so that means a lot and that’s what I’m going to remember.