Outgoing Mountain Valley High School Principal Matt Gilbert addresses students Friday during a farewell assembly in Rumford. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

RUMFORD — Students and staff at Mountain Valley High School extended a farewell to Principal Matt Gilbert on Friday.

“Matt, thank you, because one of the coolest things I’ve always felt coming into this building is that we always felt safe,” teacher Jim Aylward said. “You’ve also been a role model for being responsible. If it was your job, you did it. If it wasn’t your job, you did it.”

“Working for him has been a great pleasure, Aylward said. “He always tried to pump you up when you were low, and he was always there to try to celebrate you when things were going your way.”

“You’re a leader,” he told Gilbert. “You’re a role model. And you’re a friend.”

Gilbert was principal for 18 years and assistant principal for a couple years before that.

On Monday, he began duties as assistant superintendent for Regional School Unit 2, which includes Dresden, Farmingdale, Hallowell, Monmouth and Richmond.

Mountain Valley High School Assistant Principal Tom Danylik took over as interim principal Monday, with longtime educator Al Cayer stepping in as assistant principal.

Danylik told students Gilbert has led the school for 18 years.

“Eighteen years is a long time to do one thing,” he said. “And what we wish for all of you is that when you leave here, that you find something that you are passionate about. When you are passionate about something, that brings out the best that you can be.”

Danylik, who worked with Gilbert for 10 years, said, he “personifies all of these things. He loves Mountain Valley High School as much as anyone I’ve ever met.”

Outgoing Mountain Valley High School Principal Matt Gilbert, left, shakes hands Friday with seniors during a farewell assembly at the school. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

Gilbert’s sendoff got underway before he arrived for work Friday. He said he was stopped by Rumford police as he was driving past Oxford Federal Credit Union in Mexico and was escorted to the school. As staff and students greeted him, Gilbert honked his horn while driving past the front entrance.

Jonah Byam, one of three seniors speaking at the assembly, said when Gilbert enthusiastically yells out “Good morning, Mountain Valley” as he reads the daily school announcements, “it starts our day off on a good note.

“And when you walk up on stage and shake his hand on graduation night and he says ‘congratulations,’ that starts us off for the rest of our lives,” Byam said. “Mr. Gilbert plays a huge role in our lives. He is not just a principal at Mountain Valley. He is our friend, and I’m honored to say so.”

He asked Gilbert and the 85 or so seniors to join him and line up on stage.

Danylik said a graduation tradition at Mountain Valley is “when they walk across the stage to get their diplomas and shake Mr. Gilbert’s hand, they always hand him something to remember the class.”

Byam said, “So the Class of 2020, even though you (Gilbert) won’t be here for graduation, we’d still like to have that moment.”

As Gilbert, a musician, shook hands with each student, he was given a guitar pick.

Gilbert expressed his appreciation.

“I want to say thank you,” he said. “I’ve had a real lucky life that I’ve been able to do something I really love for 18 years. I don’t take that lightly . . . I appreciate every part of being principal at Mountain Valley High School.”

Gilbert had one last lesson for students. “When you guys get out of here, find your path, do some great things, and bring it back to Rumford, Maine.”


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