Greenfield Middle School Principal Gary Tashjian retires

  • Greenfield Middle School Principal Gary Tashjian greets on time students with “school bucks” that they can redeem at the school store. Tashjian has decided to move on from Greenfield Middle School after 32 years. RECORDER FILE/PAUL FRANZ

Recorder Staff
Published: 6/15/2018 6:48:12 PM

GREENFIELD — With a granddaughter now in the picture and a desire to pursue other passions, Gary Tashjian has decided to move on from Greenfield Middle School after 32 years.

Tashjian, who turns 58 this week, reflected on his tenure at the middle school, having spent the first 16 years as a science teacher before becoming an administrator for the past 16 years.

“Even though people say teachers have the summers off, it’s an incredibly demanding job,” Tashjian said, emphasizing he wants to spend more time with his nearly 2-year-old granddaughter. “I’ve just gotten to the point where I want to put energy in other places. In order to do a good job in education, you need to put most of your energies in it, and that’s just not what I want to do anymore.”

Tashjian expects to spend the next three to six months, in addition to helping out with the transition to a new principal, figuring out what it is that he wants to do next with his life. “I feel like I’m young enough and energetic enough to do something else,” he said, noting this is not a retirement altogether, just from education.

During his years at the school on Federal Street, Tahjian witnessed and was involved in the building’s reconstruction, demographic shifts, developments in technology, shifts in the education model and most recently, the merger of the Math and Science Academy.

He quickly thanked the teachers and staff who worked alongside him. “The staff at the middle school is exceptional. They work their tail off. That’s been a real positive thing for me to work with some real dedicated people.” Tashjian, however, also noted some of the struggles that have developed in recent years to add stress to the job.

“One of the things that has changed over the years is just that whole social networking,” Tashjian said. “It’s taken a toll on me. People would rather air their opinions on the internet rather than talking and that’s a change.”

And using social media to voice one’s gripes, he said, isn’t the same as having conversations with the people in the schools.

“We have tried pretty hard at the middle school level, and most schools in Greenfield and probably in any place, to get people involved,” Tashjian said. “It’s tough. For those people out there that want to help a school improve, school council, PTOs, volunteering in the classroom — those are so much better ways to improve a school.”

There is room to improve at the middle school, he offered, but he stressed for families to come in and speak with teachers and administrators to figure out the best ways to move forward, instead of potentially complaining on social media with no solution offered.

The internet and social media, though, are just two aspects of the growing role of technology, both in and out of the classroom, that Tashjian has seen influencing education.

“I think technology is a wonderful thing. We can use it in ways that really help us,” he said. But, there is another aspect of technology use that can prove troublesome, something Tashjian has seen with middle school and even high school students. “Technology is not just a tool to improve, but it’s used as a toy at times and a toy that often leads them to more conflict and more trouble.”

“Many of the students just aren’t old enough or mature enough to use it wisely,” Tashjian said. “They make poor choices.”

And technology use isn’t just tricky when it comes to students. In the classroom, Tashjian said it can be tough for a teacher to balance using the technology as a tool to provide more information without letting it do everything.

“It seems to take away a little of the thinking process. It’s almost like we’re letting the technology think for us, instead of letting us do that,” Tashjian said. But he also knows there are teachers out there finding the right balance in their classrooms.

State guidelines

Technology is just one aspect of the classroom and changes that teachers face. Tashjian lamented some of the state’s growing list of standards that educators face.

“Some of the biggest changes might have been handcuffing teachers to be a little less creative and follow more strict guidelines for education and teaching,” he said. “There is some need to follow the state standards and many of them are very good standards, but I think when we create so many standards for teachers to follow, and then they get in a desire to fill all of these standards, it’s very difficult to be creative on the daily basis because most of the time you’re just trying to get through those standards.”

New principal

He hopes the next principal can carry on the desire for the school to value the arts, music, theater and athletics, which has been one of his moments of pride over his years.

“When we start thinking about cutting those things, it makes for a very black and white, not a very colorful education for our children,” Tashjian said.

With the search under way to find his successor, Tashjian hopes the new principal will be able to continue the recent commitment the school made toward helping students with social-emotional learning, learning to self-regulate.

Additionally, Tashjian would like to see the school help students see possible future careers more clearly.

A personal note

While he is ready for a new phase of his life to begin, Tashjian won’t forget his time at the middle school. He said his proudest moments as a teacher came from engaging students, getting them to be excited to learn, while his proudest moments as an administrator have often come from former students.

“Having students come back in later years, who I have had to discipline or somehow be the one who has to make a decision on consequences, say you were kind of strong then and had your opinions, but it was worth it,” Tashjian said, adding he appreciates those moments when people come back and offer that. Sometimes, he said, “they’ll come back and say, ‘I appreciate that you were being strict, but being fair.’”

And in a way, that’s some of what he hopes to pass on to his granddaughter one day when she asks about his time at the school, “Try your best every day and treat people with respect and fairly.”

You can reach Joshua Solomon at: jsolomon@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.




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