Jana Mates is the new principal at Lewiston Middle School. 

Middle school open house for parents: Tuesday, Aug. 29, 4:30-6 p.m. 

LEWISTON — Jana Mates, who last year was principal at Farwell Elementary, is the new principal of Lewiston Middle School, taking over for Jake Langlais, the new high school principal.

The middle school is seeing a growing enrollment, as have the elementary schools. As of last week the middle school population was 792, which is a high, Mates said.

Her goal this year “is to make middle school fun. Our big message is to be kind.” When students walk through the door she wants them to be happy they’re there  and to know they’re safe.

Mates accepted the job because working with middle school students “is where my heart is at.” In elementary school most students love school; in high school many have their plans made for their next steps, she said.

But middle school is an in-between time when many are trying to figure out who they are. “They’re still impressionable,” Mates said. “I want to get them on the right path.”

With Langlais moving to the high school, the district was faced with, “Who is the best person to head up the middle school?” Superintendent Bill Webster said. “The answer was clear: Jana, who came from a background out of state with a strong middle school experience. Even though she was only at Farwell a year, she was the logical choice.”

Mates, 39, grew up in Wales and graduated from Oak Hill High School. After graduating from the University of New Hampshire, she taught sixth grade in Boston public schools, then taught in Nashville and worked as a literacy coach.

She moved back to Maine four years ago and became assistant principal at Longley Elementary School, a post she held for two years. Last year, she became principal of Farwell Elementary, a post she held for one year.

She plans to be middle school principal for a longer duration, Mates said.

Her tip to parents: Encourage your youngster to talk to you so you understand if they are struggling academically, socially or emotionally. Build in a dedicated time to check in with your children.

Her advice for students: Trust adults. Seek help if you have questions. “We at the school are putting in a lot of time and energy making the focus different. But it’s going to take both sides.”

Lighter side

Mates’ favorite movie: “Lucas.”

Her favorite food: Sushi.

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