Dr. Stephen Marquis understands the influence educators can have. As an energetic child and struggling student, his second grade teacher pressured the school administration to have him demoted, and he was transferred from his neighborhood school to a school across town. For three years, he suffered the anxiety of being separated from his peers and endured a bus ride each morning instead of a walk across the street. Eventually, Dr. Marquis became the first person in his family to earn a college degree, but those feelings of confusion and sadness stuck with him and shaped the educator he is today. He sees it as his obligation to find innovative ways to inspire and challenge students and his responsibility to advocate for them and their families.
During his six years at Sea Road Elementary, Dr. Marquis has had a unique opportunity to shape the school through educator selection. In those years, nearly 75% of the staff have retired, advanced in their careers, or otherwise departed. Recognizing that teacher selection and induction is one of the most critical roles of a school leader, Dr. Marquis instituted a rigorous selection process. Every potential staff member is thoroughly reviewed by a committee that shifts with each new hire. Following the interview, nominees teach a lesson while being observed. Through this process, Dr. Marquis communicates his high expectations for all teachers, and new hires learn to embrace the high standards, creating a team that possesses the ability to collaborate, communicate, and excel in the classroom. To assist new hires, Dr. Marquis supports a mentoring process that pairs new and veteran teachers to help immerse the new teachers in the school’s culture of healthy competition, professional inquiry, and dialogue. Dr. Marquis also works closely with the local university. In the last three years, he has mentored four of his teachers and supported their aspirations to become school administrators. His mentoring allows educators to gain on-the-job experience as they think about school operations, how and why decisions are made, and how they might address situations differently as a school leader.
Another way Dr. Marquis has made his mark on Sea Road Elementary was with the creation of a nationally competitive robotics program. Dr. Marquis recruited parent volunteers to help run the program, arranged mentoring from the state robotics organization for coaches, asked the school maintenance team to build the necessary infrastructure, and worked tirelessly to obtain funding, including seeking grants to help with ongoing operational costs. In keeping with his philosophy of making sure each child has a sense of belonging, the program is open to all students regardless of social and academic functioning. Within a few years of the program’s initiation, Sea Road fielded multiple state champion and runner-up teams, and has sent teams to the national championship. Dr. Marquis has continued to develop the program by bringing it into classrooms and training teachers to include robotics as a regular part of the curriculum. He has also implemented a student mentoring program in which several of the top robotic team members are encouraged to return to work with younger students and volunteer as summer teaching assistants at the town’s new robotics camp.
All the while Dr. Marquis has worked to ensure a successful and welcoming learning environment for students, Sea Road Elementary has faced the threat of closure. Dr. Marquis tries to shelter the school community from these deliberations and has consistently reminded staff that their focus and circle of influence is on exceptional teaching and learning outcomes. As a result, Sea Road students continue to excel academically and socially. And just as unfortunate memories shaped Dr. Marquis’s career, so have good ones in the form of a second grade teacher who believed in him and wanted him to succeed. It’s the memory of this teacher that continues to inspire Dr. Marquis to be an educator to all who enter his school despite whatever challenges arise.