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Matthew Espinosa feels at home in his office and in the hallways at Joseph Melillo Middle School. He's only been on the job since late August, but the school's new principal is already comfortable as one of the town of East Haven's newest school administrators.
Though a Guilford resident, Matthew is more familiar with East Haven than most people might realize. His wife's family is from town and his father-in-law attended school in East Haven, including Melillo. Matthew says that staff meetings have the feeling of family gatherings.
"I feel like I know the East Haven community without living here," he says.
He's happy to be in East Haven and leading his own school.
Matthew came to Melillo from East Haddam, where he served as an assistant principal at Nathan Hale-Ray High School for three years. His interest in working in the middle school setting was developed when he was an 8th-grade English/language arts teacher at Haddam-Killingworth Middle School for nine years. That was his first certified teaching position.
It's not surprising that Matthew chose to pursue a career in education.
"I've always loved school," says Matthew. "I loved summers, but was always ready to go back. It's where I love to be and where I need to be."
Matthew received an English degree from the University of Connecticut and earned certification to teach at Eastern Connecticut State University. He did graduate work at Wesleyan University, and earned an administrator's certificate from Sacred Heart University. Matthew was born and raised in Uncasville.
Matthew is happy to be back in a middle school setting. When people say negative things about middle school, "I love being able to explain they have it all wrong," Matthew says.
"We're in the middle. Elementary schools are cozy and high school becomes more academic. We're in the middle in a comforting environment," but one that prepares students for the rigors of high school.
"We want to make sure they're ready socially and academically," says Matthew. "You can spend time with students and get to know what they need. I'm always about balance. Middle school is the balance between the two."
It's now Matthew's responsibility to assess the school and make it an even better place in which students can grow both socially and academically.
"I am going to see what's working and build on that," says Matthew. "There are already a lot of wonderful things in this school. My first priority is to have a place the town, students, and parents can be proud of."
Matthew has a strong interest in integrating technology, including social media, into the school. He wants to have a Facebook page that will help keep parents involved in school happenings.
"I also want to make the school web page more of a hub" in which teachers, students, and parents can get information, Matthew adds. "I want to use technology to create that bond."
Matthew also wants to ensure that students are allowed to embrace technology.
"Technology has an important place in what we do," he says. "We need to teach students how to use technology appropriately."
In addition, Matthew wants to create a strong name for Melillo.
"I'm a big fan of branding. I want to make the building a brand," says Matthew. "People need to know that wonderful things are going on here."
Matthew plans to become more involved in the East Haven community.
"I loved being at Hale-Ray, but there was a difference between Guilford and Hale-Ray. It was a 40-minute drive and I was not part of the community," he says. "I can go to events more easily now."