Ask a Teacher: Who is joining the Monroe Public Schools administrative team? By Jessica Conte, Contributing Writer

We have many new members joining our strong principal administrative staff in Monroe. What better way to get to know them than to learn more about their passion for education? I had the opportunity to interview each of them and share their insights.
Brett Wille, new principal at Hidden River Middle School, previously served as an assistant principal at the high school. One of Wille's favorite children books is Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, by Patty Lovell. It's about the importance of standing up for who you are and what makes you different. He was driven to education because of his belief that he could make a difference and have a positive impact on our community; he loves the opportunity to work with both teachers and students. His favorite subject in school was math, which taught him how to face challenges and use resources and creativity to solve problems. When asked what the best advice he received in regard to education was, Wille shared "our most important mission as educators is to ensure that all students find success ... we must not allow any student to fail. The statistics are staggering for students that aren't successful in making it through high school, so I believe we must adopt the mindset that it is our moral responsibility to do whatever it takes to ensure that each and every student makes it.GÇ¥
Mark Henderson is the new assistant principal at Monroe High School. Driven to education for the opportunity to mentor and work with young people, Henderson was most inspired by his health teacher who was also the head football coach. Henderson appreciated that this teacher was always positive and empowered students to feel like they could do anything in the world. Henderson loves The Little Witch Sisters and used to read it to his little daughters. His favorite subject was math because it came so easily. His advice for students is to "take advantage of the opportunity before you; try to do and be your very best in high school and appreciate the teacher, coach, or parent who is pushing you, because later in life that positive high school experience will be of great benefit.GÇ¥
Terry Cheshire joins Park Place Middle School as the principal after serving as the principal of Jackson High School in Everett. Cheshire taught math, health, and physical education at the middle level and is excited about returning to the level where he started his career. His favorite children's book is The Treasure by Uri Shulevitz.Having watched both of his parents and two grandparents pursue teaching, Cheshire saw the positive impact they had upon children's lives and wanted to make a positive difference, as well. When asked to reflect on an inspirational teacher, Cheshire recallshis sixth grade teacher who looked beyond the barriers-áCheshire put up, believed in him, and helped him to see his own abilities and potential. Cheshire's favorite grade through school was eighth grade as he began to solidify who he was as a person and find subjects and activities that he enjoyed.-áThe best advice Cheshire has to give to fellow educators is to treat your students as you would want your own children treated.
Hugo Molina will serve as Frank Wagner Elementary assistant principal. He comes to us from the Winlock School District where he grew up and then returned to teach and complete his administrative internship. Molina is excited to work with the students at Frank Wagner using his native Spanish speaking skills. Molina's favorite children's book is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. Growing up, Molina's teachers encouraged him and showed great patience as he could not speak English. At that time there weren't language programs to learn English so Molina was placed in Special Education. With the help of his teachers, Molina exited the program in the 2nd grade as a fluent English speaker. Reflecting on his elementary years, Molina remembers his 2nd grade teacher. She challenged him beyond his comfort zone, confirming it was okay to be different. As the only minority student in the school, those comments had a strong positive impact on Molina. Math was and still is Molina's favorite subject. Someone once told Molina that "it was okay to failGǪA failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstancesGǪThe real mistake is to stop trying.Gǥ
Bonnie McKerney, a 32-year veteran of public education, joins Maltby Elementary as principal, having lived in the Monroe area for over twenty years. Her favorite picture book is Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, by Kevin Henkes. Her favorite chapter book is Wonder, by R. J. Palacio, and her favorite non-fiction book is How to Write Your Life Story, by Ralph Fletcher. She was inspired to become an educator while watching her second grade teacher motivate students to both read and enjoy learning. McKerney learned the best advice about children from her family doctor. When she felt overwhelmed after the birth of her first child she shared with the doctor that the book said babies were only supposed to eat every three hours and her daughter wanted more. He kindly looked at her and said, "Dear, she can't read the book!" -áMcKerney carries that advice with her, recognizing that each child is unique and can do amazing things. She is inspired every day by the students, staff and community that she feels blessed to serve.
Christine Espeland, Chain Lake's new principal, is a longtime educator with almost 20 years in public schools. She most recently completed her administrative training in the Arlington School District. Her favorite book is Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick. While in college, Espeland worked with children on Native American culture and was inspired by their passion, interest, and growth in the material; she wanted to be a part of that process. She decided to go into education and seeing students-áachieve success in their learning is the best job in the worldGǪplus kids are just fun to be with! Espeland had many teachers who impacted her, but the most inspirational was her music teacher who exuded enthusiasm and had high expectations for the students' performance. He made music come alive and his class was something Espeland looked forward to. As a student, Espeland also loved social studies class because learning about different cultures opened up her world.-áShe believes that relationships are vital to building successful school communities. She shares a popular quote, "They don't care how much you know until they know how much you care".
Vikki Berard, Frank Wagner Elementary's new principal, comes to us from Woodin Elementary in the Northshore School District. Berard has-áserved in several school leadership roles and-átaught at every elementary grade level. As a middle sibling, Berard often played school as a child and loved that education helped to navigate people through life. She felt education was her calling. When Berard was in second grade attending Catholic school, a nun took her and her siblings under her wing. Berard felt listened to and valued by this nun. Berard always loved reading. Her favorite book is The Borrowers, by Mary Norton, the first book that she owned. Even though her family had limited resources and few vacations, books opened up her world, expanded her circle, and introduced her to a wide variety of possibilities and experiences. The best advice Berard has to share is, "We all have so much to learn, even teachers. Everyone is on a different point of the continuum, but we all should be open and willing to be a learner.GÇ¥ Gary Marks, a 14-year veteran of alternative education, will coordinate Leaders in Learning after supervising the learning program at the Snohomish County Detention Center. As a beginning reader, Marks liked the Curious George books but his favorite book is All Around Puget Sound, a book written by-áhis students at the Snohomish Juvenile-áJustice-áCenter. Marks jokes that he was driven to education for "the money, the fame, the glory!GÇ¥ In all truth, he thought education would allow him the opportunity to make a difference in someone's life. Marks shares that he was inspired by many great teachers who believed in him, were interested in his success, had high expectations of him, and didn't let him get away with mediocre work. Math and Science were Marks' favorite subjects in school; math because it seemed like a game or puzzle that could be solved by following the rules and using logic. Marks liked the hands-on aspect of science, mixing chemicals, dissecting frogs, making things, breaking things, and "messing aroundGÇ¥ with materials. The best advice he received and would like to pass on to others is, "The more you learn, the more you realize you need to learn. Making mistakes are when we learn the most.-áEffort + Persistence + Mistakes = Learning. Learning is a journey, not a destination.GÇ¥
Stay tuned next time to learn more about the returning administrative staff in Monroe!
Jessica Conte is a Nationally Board Certified teacher, has ten years of teaching experience in Monroe, and is a doctoral student in Educational Leadership at Seattle University. For suggestions on questions to be answered in future articles, please email Jessica at


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