Marie Kirk: Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Challenges

For Marie Kirk, principal at World Academy in Nashua, New Hampshire, September brings a sense of anticipation—new students, new challenges, new opportunities for discovery and growth. “I always get excited about the new school year,” she says. “It can be a little hectic, as there is a lot going on and a lot to get done, but I always eagerly anticipate the arrival of our students, and look forward to our journey together through the year ahead." Some might say that Kirk was born to do this job. In the 1990s, while a junior in high school, she actually worked at World Academy, which was then called Small World. World Academy offers innovative nurturing and education for children from infant through eighth grade. “I grew up here!” she laughs. “I loved my time here, and after college, when I learned that they had an opening for a third-grade teacher, I took the job. The school had such a great environment when I was first here back in high school, that I was eager to become part of that environment as a full time teacher. There is a great team of teachers here, excellent leadership, and the student body is phenomenal.” Kirk’s path to being involved in education wasn’t 100 percent set. She comes from a family of firefighters—five generations of them—and for “about a minute,” considered joining those ranks. “My favorite game as a child was playing teacher with my siblings and parents,” she recalls. “And, I always loved getting ready for the new school year. However, I felt that same call to help others that my family did; the only difference was that I wanted to help them through teaching. I realized, at a young age, that teaching was what I enjoyed most.” Being in the classroom was very satisfying, but Kirk soon began taking on more responsibilities, and building her administrative skills. For a number of years, she taught full time, while also managing some key administrative duties. Then, the position of assistant principal opened up, and Kirk was offered the position. She accepted, and within a few years, found herself in the principal’s job. “I miss teaching, but at World Academy, the leadership is so involved in the overall school community, that I’m still constantly interacting with teachers and students. I’m literally in each classroom every day, and seeing all the students every day. Our teachers are so invested in what they are teaching, and in any new programs they might be offering, that they invite me in all the time to see what’s going on. I may help with a first grade science experiment one day and be involved in an art project the next. It’s really the best of all worlds.” Learning for Life Kirk is most enthusiastic about working to improve her school, whether it’s by working with students or with teachers. “The communication between teachers and administration is very good, so we are always looking to see how we can make things better in the classroom, and help our teachers become better teachers,” she says. “Everyone here wants to learn and grow. We know that if our teachers are at their best, and have everything that they need, then our students will reap the benefits. We also think that it’s important for students to see that learning is a lifelong experience, and that our teachers and staff are continually taking classes and improving themselves. I will be completing an advanced degree in educational leadership in October, and the students are encouraged to see Ms. Kirk studying and taking tests just like they do!” Kirk admits that even the best jobs have challenges, and notes that in her position “there never seems to be enough time.” “I want everything prepared and to be able to anticipate and fix things before they need fixing,” she laughs, “but don’t we all? I’m also very motivated by everyone I work with to constantly up my game and do more. I have to remind myself that it will all get done, and that I’m doing my best.” Despite some hectic days—especially in September—there is no place Kirk would rather be. “I’m constantly blown away by what my students are learning and doing. I’m also so pleased to have my daughter here as a student; she has gone to school at World Academy since she was in infant and I’m amazed by the skills that she has—skills I know I didn’t possess at that age. I’m also so proud to see our students successfully transition to high school. We collaborate with local high schools to make sure that transition goes smoothly, and it is so satisfying to see our kids bloom and grow in a new environment.” Kirk is clearly passionate about learning, and especially about World Academy. “We really see every student and we listen to them. While they are here, we work to develop them as a complete student and a complete person. We want all students to be able to fulfill their potential and build confidence in a wide range of skills. We make it a priority to build a strong bond with students’ families and to communicate with parents regularly, so that they know how their children are progressing. We see our relationship with parents as a partnership. For families who want or need a school where the entire community is engaged, from leadership to teachers, in bringing out the best in their students, we are a great choice. We really make a difference in the lives of many kids.” Kirk knows that the future of education is not without its challenges, but is excited for what it will bring. “A lot of education has gone digital and that trend will continue, but I think we need to remember the importance of the personal touch and the hands’ on approach. Students and teachers still need to feel motivated and encouraged and to gain real-world experience. I also think that we need to take students beyond the classroom and make them feel their connection to their community, their state, their country, and the world. They need to see the big picture and how they fit into it. “We also know that we are preparing students for jobs that don’t exist yet,” she continues. “And that can be a bit mystifying. Therefore, we emphasize skills that work across all kinds of job sets, such as problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, how to compromise, and so on. We make sure that they don’t just do things by rote, but think things through and understand the ‘why’ behind their actions. We are eager to see what our students do out in the world, and for the next generation to come through our doors.”

Written by Crystal Ward Kent for NH Women Magazine

For Marie Kirk, principal at World Academy in Nashua, New Hampshire, September brings a sense of anticipation—new students, new challenges, new opportunities for discovery and growth. “I always get excited about the new school year,” she says. “It can be a little hectic, as there is a lot going on and a lot to get done, but I always eagerly anticipate the arrival of our students, and look forward to our journey together through the year ahead.”

Some might say that Kirk was born to do this job. In the 1990s, while a junior in high school, she actually worked at World Academy, which was then called Small World. World Academy offers innovative nurturing and education for children from infant through eighth grade. “I grew up here!” she laughs. “I loved my time here, and after college, when I learned that they had an opening for a third-grade teacher, I took the job. The school had such a great environment when I was first here back in high school, that I was eager to become part of that environment as a full time teacher. There is a great team of teachers here, excellent leadership, and the student body is phenomenal.”

Kirk’s path to being involved in education wasn’t 100 percent set.  She comes from a family of firefighters—five generations of them—and for “about a minute,” considered joining those ranks. “My favorite game as a child was playing teacher with my siblings and parents,” she recalls. “And, I always loved getting ready for the new school year. However, I felt that same call to help others that my family did; the only difference was that I wanted to help them through teaching. I realized, at a young age, that teaching was what I enjoyed most.”

Being in the classroom was very satisfying, but Kirk soon began taking on more responsibilities, and building her administrative skills.  For a number of years, she taught full time, while also managing some key administrative duties. Then, the position of assistant principal opened up, and Kirk was offered the position.  She accepted, and within a few years, found herself in the principal’s job. “I miss teaching, but at World Academy, the leadership is so involved in the overall school community, that I’m still constantly interacting with teachers and students. I’m literally in each classroom every day, and seeing all the students every day.  Our teachers are so invested in what they are teaching, and in any new programs they might be offering, that they invite me in all the time to see what’s going on. I may help with a first grade science experiment one day and be involved in an art project the next. It’s really the best of all worlds.”

Learning for Life

Kirk is most enthusiastic about working to improve her school, whether it’s by working with students or with teachers. “The communication between teachers and administration is very good, so we are always looking to see how we can make things better in the classroom, and help our teachers become better teachers,” she says. “Everyone here wants to learn and grow. We know that if our teachers are at their best, and have everything that they need, then our students will reap the benefits. We also think that it’s important for students to see that learning is a lifelong experience, and that our teachers and staff are continually taking classes and improving themselves. I will be completing an advanced degree in educational leadership in October, and the students are encouraged to see Ms. Kirk studying and taking tests just like they do!”

Kirk admits that even the best jobs have challenges, and notes that in her position “there never seems to be enough time.” “I want everything prepared and to be able to anticipate and fix things before they need fixing,” she laughs, “but don’t we all? I’m also very motivated by everyone I work with to constantly up my game and do more. I have to remind myself that it will all get done, and that I’m doing my best.”

Despite some hectic days—especially in September—there is no place Kirk would rather be. “I’m constantly blown away by what my students are learning and doing. I’m also so pleased to have my daughter here as a student; she has gone to school at World Academy since she was in infant and I’m amazed by the skills that she has—skills I know I didn’t possess at that age. I’m also so proud to see our students successfully transition to high school.  We collaborate with local high schools to make sure that transition goes smoothly, and it is so satisfying to see our kids bloom and grow in a new environment.”

Kirk is clearly passionate about learning, and especially about World Academy. “We really see every student and we listen to them. While they are here, we work to develop them as a complete student and a complete person.  We want all students to be able to fulfill their potential and build confidence in a wide range of skills. We make it a priority to build a strong bond with students’ families and to communicate with parents regularly, so that they know how their children are progressing. We see our relationship with parents as a partnership. For families who want or need a school where the entire community is engaged, from leadership to teachers, in bringing out the best in their students, we are a great choice.  We really make a difference in the lives of many kids.”

Kirk knows that the future of education is not without its challenges, but is excited for what it will bring.  “A lot of education has gone digital and that trend will continue, but I think we need to remember the importance of the personal touch and the hands’ on approach. Students and teachers still need to feel motivated and encouraged and to gain real-world experience. I also think that we need to take students beyond the classroom and make them feel their connection to their community, their state, their country, and the world. They need to see the big picture and how they fit into it. 

“We also know that we are preparing students for jobs that don’t exist yet,” she continues. “And that can be a bit mystifying. Therefore, we emphasize skills that work across all kinds of job sets, such as problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, how to compromise, and so on. We make sure that they don’t just do things by rote, but think things through and understand the ‘why’ behind their actions. We are eager to see what our students do out in the world, and for the next generation to come through our doors.”

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