NORWAY — The new principal of Guy E. Rowe Elementary School, Doug Kilmister, comes with a world of  experience.

His resume includes 36 years of teaching and administrative experience at rural New England schools, an inner-city school, and two international schools.

Guy E. Rowe Principal Doug Kilmister. Dee Menear/Advertiser Democrat

Kilmister, of Paris, began his career in education in the early 1980s. He was assigned a long-term substitute position at a central New Hampshire middle school. When the assignment was over, the school signed him on in a teaching position.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I had great mentorship early in my career.”

After a seven-year stint teaching high school in York, Kilmister set his sights on international teaching in the Republic of Colombia. It was here that he was introduced to teaching an elementary-level class. It was also where he first considered a career in school administration.

“It was a transformative experience,” he said. “The principal of the school in Colombia was applying for a directorship of a school in Paraguay. He said if he got the position, he wanted me to consider going with him and applying for the high school principal position at the school.

“He didn’t get the job, but I decided to get a master’s certificate in school administration from Harvard,” Kilmister said.

After an internship at Rafael Hernandez Two-Way Bilingual School in Roxbury, Massachusetts, Kilmister joined Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound, a Harvard Graduate School of Education program based on the teachings of German educator Kurt Hahn.

“Hahn’s philosophy is that people can do more than they think possible,” Kilmister said. “It’s all about the education of the mind, body and spirit collaboratively.”

He was in the program for eight years. Most of that time was spent overseeing research and evaluation of the top schools in the nation. When there were talks of transferring his office from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Hudson, New York, Kilmister remembered his desire to lead schools.

“I knew I wanted to be a principal, but I got waylaid,” he said.

He moved back to New Hampshire and took a job teaching high school in Pittsfield. When an elementary principal position in the same district opened up, he was selected for the job. After five years, he took a position at an elementary school in Milton, New Hampshire.

“I really enjoyed both those experiences,” he said. “In small towns, you really get to know people.”

In 2016, Kilmister became principal of the American Nicaraguan School in Managua, Nicaragua. The school, he said, was the most prestigious school in the country and served an exclusive clientele. His students were children of government officials, foreign nationals, expatriates and ambassadors.

“Even for a wealthy school, we dealt with situations very similar to those in the U.S.,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you are, there are going to be kids who have a hard time sitting still and there are going to be developmental challenges.”

In April 2018, political crisis started to unfold.

“Students at the university next to the school started protesting,” he said. “They didn’t have guns, but they did have handmade mortars. The situation was tragic. The Peace Corps evacuated. The embassy evacuated. We had to shut the school down and focus on distance learning. Nicaragua is a great place, but in that type of situation, you can’t even go outside.”

Kilmister returned to Concord, New Hampshire. He dabbled in carpentry with a friend and spent some time as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service.

“In February, I decided I really missed being a principal and really missed working with kids,” he said. Even though this was a little further away than I planned, I had a good sense this would be a strong match during the interview process,” he said.

Kilmister’s took the reins from Dan Hart on July 1. He is already settling into the position and the community.

“Every day I have been here, I have been surprised by new discoveries,” he said. “There is a community spirit that is really strong. I am looking forward to getting to know the kids and their families, and to being present in the school, in classrooms and in the community.”

“I am also looking forward to building on the strengths that exist in this school,” he said. “There is a lot of support for curriculum and instruction, and we have a lot of veteran teachers.”

The challenge is one he is looking forward to facing.

“There is a lot of teacher turnover, not just here but everywhere,” he said. “The nature of teaching has changed. Teaching is more challenging than ever because of the diversity of classrooms. Teachers need to organize instruction to address a group of students with a wide range of skills. But new teachers bring energy and I have learned how to manage that energy and spread it to others.”

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