Saturday, May 23, 2020

Moyer named Pennsylvania's top principal for 2020

Rupert Elementary School Principal Matt Moyer with some of his students.

Matt Moyer is not above getting his hands dirty for his students.
He's been slimed.

He's sported a $1,300 purple Mohawk.

He's been the star of home videos about science.

And now he's being recognized for all that and more.

Rupert Elementary School Principal Matthew Moyer has been named Pennsylvania's Distinguished Principal for 2020 by the Pennsylvania Principal's Association.

As such, he will represent the Keystone State during the selection of a national distinguished principal in the fall.

"Yeah, I was certainly surprised," Moyer told The Mercury on Friday. After being nominated, "I filled out the form and sent it off thinking, 'sure, I'll throw my hat in the ring,' but then I didn't think much more about it."

"I mean there are 500 school districts in Pennsylvania, and just think how many principals are in each one," Moyer said.

But then, "they contacted me for an interview by four previews winners" and then they interviewed the district superintendent, a Rupert teacher and a Rupert parent. They Moyer was interviewed by a recommendation committee, "and I started to think I had a shot."

Indeed he did. In fact, the recommendation to select Moyer as Pennsylvania's best principal of 2020 was unanimous.

Part of the process was asking Moyer to identify three of his most significant accomplishments.

On the list was his implementation of district-wide safety plans and the introduction of non-violent crisis intervention training.

Rupert Principal Matt Moyer welcomes parents during an
open house in 2014.
But ever-focused on students, the first accomplishment Moyer listed was the fact that he is frequently selected by Rupert alum to be a guest at their high school graduation, a long-standing Pottstown tradition which allows students to invite two teachers who had the greatest impact on them.

And who would he have invited?

A Rupert alum himself, Moyer finally settled on Mark Ottinger as the Rupert teacher who had the greatest impact on him, although it was a struggle.

"I remember every one of my teachers," Moyer said.

"My brothers used to come home from Rupert and say 'Mr. Ottinger said this and Mr. Ottinger said that.' In fact, he stopped by to visit Rupert two years ago and I was so great to talk to him again," said Moyer.

Moyer grew up on the 1100 block of Queen Street. His father David worked at Mrs. Smith's Pies, "until they closed, and then he worked at Neapco for a while until he retired."

His mother Linda, also an alum of Rupert, raised three boys, of which Moyer is the youngest, and was the secretary at St. John's United Church of Christ and at Pottstown Hospital.

Moyer talks with students about a tower garden at Rupert in 2017.
Moyer decided to go into education when he was a student at Pottstown High School.

"They had a program, I don't remember what it was called, but you could go into the schools and help out. I went into classrooms at Franklin," Moyer said. "At first I thought I wanted to be a police officer, but I knew from that point what I wanted to do."

After graduating, Moyer attended Shippensburg University, obtained his masters from Cabrini College and his superintendent's certification letter from California University of Pennsylvania.

His first teacher job was as a fifth grade teacher in Spring-Ford Area School District, and then it was on to Leesport, where he was the assistant principal at Schuylkill Valley Elementary School for three years.

In August of 2005, Moyer and Stephen Rodriguez were both hired as new principals in the district, Moyer at Rupert and Rodriguez at Pottstown High School.

Rupert Principal Matthew Moyer has sported some unique
hairstyles for his students over the years.
“Mr. Moyer has poured his heart and soul into Rupert Elementary for the past 15 years. He is a role model for using multiple forms of communications to build strong relationships with students,families,teachers and community," said Rodriguez, now the district's superintendent.

Those communications have become unique after the coronavirus pandemic closed all Pottstown schools. Moyer continued to keep his students engaged with a series of sometimes silly science videos shot around his house and posted on YouTube.

"He is the architect of the positive caring atmosphere at Rupert. We are so proud and thankful that he has received this national recognition," Rodriguez said.

Moyer singled out another district leader, former superintendent Jeff Sparagana.

"I would be remiss if I did not mention the impact Jeff Sparagana had on me and my career. He was my mentor and my boss for 10 years. He held us all to a higher standard and I am the better for it," Moyer said.

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