August 1st, 2012
Nodel ready for challenges at Newburgh Free Academy
Maxine Nodel took over as the new Principal of Newburgh Free Academy on July 1, 2012. She is prepared to lead her staff and students in their pursuit of the school’s new “Three C’s” mission statement.
NEWBURGH - Maxine Nodel never set out to become a teacher. Rather, teaching found her, and she has not thought of letting go of it for one moment. Now, close to 30 years later, the longtime passionate educator and award-winning principal, has taken over the reigns of Newburgh Free Academy.
Her education journey began in Manhattan. Here, the Queens native earned a scholarship to the prestigious Cooper Union for Advanced Science and Art College. She was clear about her interests and loves, painting and writing. However, a third passion was on the horizon: teaching.
During her junior year, Nodel was asked to teach illustration and graphic design to a class of at-risk adolescents. From her first moment in front of the classroom, she was hooked.
“I love the excitement students got about being engaged, learning things they had not thought about before, and seeing things in different lights,” said Nodel, from behind her NFA desk. “The way the classroom allowed students to express themselves and interact was just so amazing.”
After college, Nodel stayed on the teaching path, landing a teaching assistant position at a grammar school. Seeking an art position, she soon realized the field was flooded, so she took positions, teaching the core subjects. An education innovator, she used rap lyrics to convey mathematical concepts. Another time, she paired senior citizen mentors with students to take classes. Learning side by side, the duos not only learned helpful tidbits of American History, but humanity as well.
After 18 years of refining her teaching craft, she moved right into a principalship, running the very art school she created. During that time, in 2006, she earned the Cahn Fellows Distinction for Principals, a feat bestowed to only the top 2 percent of effective principals in New York City. After a nine year principal run in NYC, Nodel learned of the NFA position, and was immediately interested.
“Newburgh does not have a one size fits all, saying that all students must move on to college,” said Nodel. “It is refreshing that here in Newburgh there is choice.”
That concept - freedom of choice - was at the nucleus of Nodel’s objectives when it came time to create something that never existed, an NFA Mission Statement. In her office, above her door, that newly completed piece reads: “Preparing students for excellence in college, career and community.”
Glancing at the sign, Nodel remarked, “They are not just going to be words, but a vision that all the students, faculty and community are going to be involved in living up to,” She added, “We have to know why we are all here each day and that we have a purpose.”
Nodel’s own goals are quite clear. Short-term, she aspires to increase levels of student achievement across the board, equip students with technical reading and writing skills, while creating a dignity for all environment. Long-term, she hopes to take NFA as far as it can go, including academic instruction, student engagement, the arts, and youth development support.
Well aware of the challenges ahead, such as poverty and state-imposed budget cuts, Nodel is intent on keeping expectations high, while believing in the potential of all children.
“If you wouldn’t be proud to send your own child to this school or your colleague’s classroom, then this school is not good enough.”
Nodel is serious about making NFA good enough and then some. A proponent of collaborative leadership, she realizes it cannot be done alone. Leading by example, Nodel is aware that she continues to be a teacher, and the impact she can have is as strong as it was in the classroom.
“Teenagers go through a very hard time of defining themselves, dealing with home issues along with the challenges of school; it can all be very daunting,” Nodel explained. “It is up to all adults that they come in contact with here to ensure their well being in all ways.”