Mary Skipper

Mary Skipper

Superintendent of Schools

Somerville, MA

What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about kids and education! We as educators have this incredible opportunity (and responsibility) to really make a positive impact on students and in the process to have them experience learning as fun and engaging. In my own life, I experienced first-hand how a good education can open up so many opportunities and so I feel compelled to ensure all students get a great education so they too have those opportunities.  I recognize that I am very blessed because for the past 26 years I have been able to live out my passion teaching and leading and I hope I will have another 25 or 30 years to keep doing that!

What are your 2/3 favorite apps or tools?
From a professional standpoint, our goal in Somerville is to foster that ‘love of learning something new every day’ in all of our students. We want that passion for learning to extend to every area of a student’s interests. The more students are comfortable learning and exploring current technologies, the better prepared they will be to succeed in a globally competitive environment. All of our students are learning how to use Google drive and the Google Apps for Education suite of apps, but we provide our students with opportunities to explore many other apps that can help strengthen their learning. Students learn in different ways, so it’s important to provide students with multiple resources that can best support their learning styles. I personally think coding is such a great way to exercise the mind and practice creative logic. We will be doing more in Somerville this year in preparation for the Hour of Code with Code.org and experimenting with other coding apps that allow students to apply and build their problem-solving and creativity skills.

What is your current project?
I am in the beginning stages of a new career opportunity as Superintendent of the Somerville Public Schools. From the moment I considered applying for the position back in the Fall of 2014, I was pretty excited about the possibility of taking that next step in my professional and educational journey. I grew up in the Arlington and Somerville area and coming back here as Superintendent is a dream in so many ways. It really does feel like a homecoming.  I am now fully immersed in learning and relearning as much as I can about Somerville, our students and teachers, and our community. We are fortunate to have tremendous leadership beginning with our Mayor and School Committee in Somerville and I am excited to build on what has already been accomplished. There is a hunger and energy here for innovation that I have experienced only a few times in my career. I am hoping to do a few sandbox projects this year with 1:1 devices, inquiry and maker spaces, blended and competency-based learning, and code projects to seed opportunities in the field for innovation to take hold and grow.

Who do you admire most? Why?
This is not an easy one to answer because I have many people I admire. Professionally, I admire Ted Sizer for his commitment to a relational learning model, Michael Fullan for his work on moral leadership; and Howard Gardner for his contributions in helping educators understand how children think and learn. Personally, I admire Pope Francis for his powerful model of servant leadership and building back bridges in so many areas by simply listening to and empathizing with people; my daughter Kassie who is a third year teacher in the Denver Public Schools for giving her energy and talent to urban education; and my husband Peter, for being the best example I know of living faith.

How do you stay current on trends and new technology?
I love reading and learning, so exploring new trends and technology is part of my DNA! I also rely on students, colleagues, and technology experts in the District and in the community to help us stay current on technology trends, new apps, and new ways in which we can use technology in education. In addition, I rely on my leadership team to discover and share new trends in the education world that can help strengthen our work with students. We’re incredibly fortunate to live in a technology-rich community that recognizes the value and impact of sharing knowledge and resources with young people. So in terms of staying current, thankfully there is no shortage of opportunities to learn about new trends and new technology, and no shortage of willingness to move beyond our comfort zones to test out those new technologies.

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