SAU 21 has a 'real gem' in Barbara Hopkins

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By Lisa Tetrault-Zhe

Hampton Union, Tuesday, November 9, 2010

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online]
Barbara Hopkins is the new assistant superintendent for SAU 21.
[Lisa Zhe photo]

HAMPTON -- For new SAU 21 assistant superintendent Barbara Hopkins, taking a position in Hampton was "like coming full circle."

Prior to joining the education field, she worked in environmental sciences.

"I did a lot of water sampling in this area, Seabrook, all along the coast here," Hopkins said. "I've been out at the clam flats, even at 2 in the morning."

After putting in several years in an environmental career, she switched her focus to education. She brings 30 years experience in the field to her new role, which she assumed Oct. 12. She spent 14 years teaching in the Oyster River and Somersworth school districts, and then signed on as the associate director of the Leitzel Center at the University of New Hampshire.

She was also a founding director at UNH Impact Center for Science and Mathematics Education. She joined the staff of the Timberlane School District (Plaistow) as the curriculum coordinator for technology, engineering, math and sciences in 2004.

She said her admiration of children is what spurred her to switch career paths.

"I love all kids, all ages, all sizes," Hopkins said. "They are so interesting. It's fascinating to see where they have the support they need, where they might need some help."

The first day on the job was a long one — 16 hours to be exact.

"I just got out in time to grab a sandwich on the way home at 11:30 p.m.," Hopkins said. "I'm learning how to juggle my time, how to find all the schools in the SAU."

That's nine schools total — Winnacunnet, North Hampton School, Lincoln Akerman School, Centre School, Marston School, Hampton Academy, Seabrook elementary and middle schools, and Barnard School. She's been doing a bit of extra driving this past week, but she said she enjoys meeting everyone at the schools.

"This is a very community-oriented SAU," Hopkins said. "It can be overwhelming when you think of all the districts involved, but each one has a tight-knit community, and that's wonderful."

Being involved with her students and multi-tasking will not be an issue for Hopkins, according to one of her former colleagues.

"She had boundless energy, was always an advocate for the best practices," said Scott Strainge, director of secondary education for SAU 55 (Timberlane). He was Hopkins' counterpart in SAU 55. While she handled science and math, he focused on the humanities curriculum. "She's a creative thinker and always has the best interests of her students at heart. She wanted to help teachers to help our students achieve."

Her departure is already being felt in the district, he said.

"She brought so much in terms of innovation and energy," Strainge said. "We miss her, and we're trying to figure out who's going to take over the 50 different things she was working on. You guys (SAU 21) have a real gem on your hands."

The personal touches she received when applying for the position helped in her decision to accept the position. She was given the opportunity to meet with the principals from the schools in the SAU, as well as many of the teachers.

She anticipates that one of her biggest challenges will be determining what's best for the schools in the area of curriculum.

"There are common course standards that are coming down from a national level," Hopkins explained. "But we have to look at what's working here and what isn't. Do we really want to base all of our decisions on the results of one NECAP (New England Common Assessments Program) test? We need to keep growing and keep learning."

Hopkins holds a master's degree in education from Boston College, and completed CAGS (Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies) in educational administration and supervision from UNH.

She and her husband, Edward, own Urban Tree Service in Rochester. They have one son, David, who with his wife has a newborn son, J.B.

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