When you walk into David Welch's office at , it is easy to forget why you are there. Your eyes wander around the room and you question whether you are in a theater company prop room, a toy store, or a hall of fame exhibit.
I was introduced to David Welch by Diane Kearney when I visited her to talk about the Manchester Adult Education Program. It was clear to me that David is not your ordinary school principal. My first question to him was can I come back and interview you for Manchester Patch? He agreed and I found out how he has combined his love of acting with his love of educating young people.
Timothy Becker: I understand that Bennet Academy is one of three sixth grade schools in the State of Connecticut. What inspired you to seek the position of Principal?
David Welch: I saw it as a unique opportunity to use my past experience. I worked 80 hour weeks my first year here. It is a different ball game. I had to come up with the school theme and mission statement. The concept of a bridge kept coming up.
Timothy Becker: What is unique about educating 12 year-olds?
David Welch: They have wide eyes. They will seek out adults for guidance. They don't have to compete with older kids here. It is easier to make connections. If you connect , then they will be more successful. It is easier to teach them if they are successful.
Timothy Becker: How will students have changed after spending one year at Bennet Academy?
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David Welch: I see us as a bridge. We hold them when they arrive here as elementary children. By June we open our arms and allow them more freedom. I tell them that they have left their neighborhood comfort zone. This is the foundation for that. We call it the melementary school. It is a constant blend. We change who we are as a school every year.
Timothy Becker: What steps did you need to take to become a Principal?
David Welch: I studied theater at Nasson College in Sanford, Maine. I wanted to go on stage in live theater. I studied abroad in Austria with a British Theater Company and worked backstage. As part of an undergraduate directing course in Maine, I was asked to be a drama coach at a local elementary school. I combined my interest in theater with working with kids. It spiraled when I took an education course as an elective. I wound up with a double major, a BA in English and a BA in Intra-Arts.
Timothy Becker: Did you go right into acting after college?
David Welch: Teaching became my back-up plan and I studied for a masters degree at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, and I continued to act. I did plays and two Movies: “Colored Rocks” and “Vow” which were feature length movies for cable television. At Clark I also taught an undergraduate course in expository writing. My feet were in both worlds.
Timothy Becker: How did you get into teaching as a profession?
David Welch: After I got married I got a job as a special education teacher working one-on-one with a student and I continued acting in the evenings and on weekends. A teaching job opened up at East Catholic High School and I taught English and the Theater Program. I wrote a play while I was there called “Go East Young Man.” Next, I took a position at Farmington High School teaching English and Theater Arts.
Timothy Becker: What interested you in becoming an administrator?
David Welch: As a teacher, I observed administrators and thought: I have that in me. I can do as well or better than what I am seeing. I studied Education Leadership at UConn and received my certification. My first position as an administrator was at Portland Middle School as an Assistant Principal for three years.
Then I went on to King Phillip School in West Hartford as an Assistant Principal, and then I became Principal at East Hartford Middle School. I was a change agent there and helped turn things around.
Then I wanted to try elementary schools, and I became Principal at Charles Wright Elementary School in Wethersfield. Now that I am at Bennet Academy, I am staying. This is my hometown. I am a believer in the Manchester School System. My own children have gotten a great education in Manchester.
Timothy Becker: Did you continue with your acting?
David Welch: At the same time I was becoming and administrator, I was “Beggo” the clown. I did clowning at corporate functions and at kids parties. I left clowning to play a medieval beggar character. My stage name is “Rouge.” I did that for 10 years at the Boar's Head Festival in Hartford.
Timothy Becker: What do you have coming up for the remainder of the school year at Bennet?
David Welch: We have Fine Arts Night in May. Artwork made by the students through the year will be displayed as well as performing arts. In conjunction with the Greater Manchester Chamber we are doing a health fair, we also will be having a math day full of math activities.
Timothy Becker: Do you have graduation exercises at Bennet Academy?
David Welch: We don't have a graduation ceremony. We have a “Rising Star Ceremony.” Instead of graduating we call it “crossing the bridge.”