Jonathan Redden ’01
Jonathan Redden ’01
Empowered to Lead
Bachelor of Arts, Providence College ’05
Major: Political Science
Ed. M in Education in the Boston Teacher Residency Program, University of Massachusetts ’06
Ed. M in School Leadership: Principal Licensure Program, Harvard University Graduate School of Education ’12
Where are you working?
I am in my fourth year as the principal of Cunningham Elementary School in Milton, Massachusetts. Currently, I have 504 students from kindergarten to grade five.
How did you get into education?
Many members of my family are educators. My mother is a teacher and always welcomed me into her school to work with her students or other educators at the Curley Lower in Jamaica Plain. In fact, I completed my community service requirement for Brimmer at the Curley School.
While attending Providence, I did more community service at a local middle school and took courses that focused on educational policies around the world. After UMass, I was fortunate to work as a special education teacher at the Murphy Elementary School in Dorchester.
While at the Murphy, I worked with very talented educators who always took the time to help me grow in my profession. The educators that I worked with during my years at the Murphy continue to influence and support me today. More importantly, I worked with great students who pushed me to become a more careful and thoughtful planner. I reflected daily on my practice to ensure that I was providing effective instruction to students that helped them be successful in the classroom.
I taught fifth grade for four years before returning to school. While at Harvard, I had an opportunity to work at the Henderson Elementary School in Dorchester. I learned a great deal about inclusive practices and Universal Design for Learning.
Being a principal is very enjoyable. The support I receive from fellow administrators, staff, parents, and the Milton community has enabled me to implement and sustain many initiatives that are positively impacting student learning and strengthen what we call the overall Cunningham Experience. I work in a very unique district known for its French Immersion program where about half of my students learn completely in French. Students in the English Innovation strand receive Spanish and additional STEM courses. In the continuously changing landscape of public education, it is important for me to be thoughtful and strategic when making change. My ability to work with educators in my school by being supportive and building capacity amongst my staff is essential to any measurable successes achieved.
How did your education at Brimmer prepare you to be the leader you are today?
Anyone that remembers my first years at Brimmer likely knew me as a quiet student. I often walked with headphones and rarely stayed after school for any activities besides playing basketball. While students in my cohort at Harvard chalked this up to my introvert profile, I knew that stepping out of my comfort zone was challenging. If I could get away with going under the radar, I would. To this day, I credit Mr. Ted Barker-Hook, Mr. Poto, Mr. Gates, and Ms. Donaldson for my growth. My teachers and advisors at Brimmer had an ability to get me to open up and take risks and worked with me through my frustrations.
Mr. Barker-Hook challenged me to not be content with a C or C+ on my writing assignments. History was one of my favorite subjects, but my struggles in writing, particularly on his tests, brought my grades down. Like any good educator, Mr. Barker-Hook made time to work with me on improving my writing. He held me accountable for submitting quality work. By not accepting mediocrity and his willingness to work with me, I think my writing greatly improved at Brimmer. In college, I always submitted written assignments confidently and when I received constructive feedback, I was able to build on it for the next assignment or redo the original altogether. Mr. Barker-Hook and I stay in contact and I like reminding him that he was my last C and I appreciate that he gave them to me.
Mr. Poto influenced me to go to Peru and learn Spanish. I was captain of the Basketball team in eleventh and twelfth grade, and I received an athletic award at Commencement. Mr. Gates challenged me to be a three-sport athlete and not worry about my playing time. Ms. Donaldson got me onstage to sing and dance. When I complained about the amount of time I spent in play practice with limited lines, she gave me a huge role in Godspell complete with a duet!
I mention these memories and experiences because being a principal was not what I envisioned for myself when I got into education. I enjoyed and still look for opportunities to get into the classroom to teach. I knew I worked well with kids, but I never led adults or spoke publicly. I still do not yearn for the days I have to speak in front of the School Committee or write improvement plans that will be made public, but I know the skill set to successfully complete these tasks started with those types of experiences from Brimmer. While I did stop ordering blue books for Cunningham teachers, I continue to challenge myself to take risks and seek feedback from all stakeholders. My leadership involves getting to know students, staff, and the community in order to effectively collaborate around goals and approaches to improve Cunningham.