Nancy Mullen was recently honored as Education in Action’s 2012 Educator in Action for her support of the organization’s Exchange City Program. Exchange City is an experiential-learning program that offers students a basic understanding of government, economics, financial literacy and workforce skills. Mullen, who began teaching in the 1970s, most recently served as principal of Matthew J. Kuss Middle School in Fall River, where she worked to turn the once-struggling school around. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in English and education from the University of Rhode Island, in addition to a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies from Boston University.
PBN: Can you tell us a little about the Exchange City program?
MULLEN: Exchange City has provided an educational, practical, real-life experience for seventh graders at Kuss for the past five years. School-to-career education had been a missing piece of our students’ learning, and Exchange City supports students learning to be responsible for their own money, to engage in leadership roles and to understand what it means to create and to head a business.
PBN: After just one year of retirement, you accepted the role of principal at Kuss. Why?
MULLEN: I was enticed to Kuss by the fact that it was named the first chronically underperforming school in Massachusetts – the worst school in the state. The challenge was to improve this school where families were withdrawing their children, and to help teachers create an environment where parents would choose to send their children. When I arrived at Kuss and proposed that Kuss would have a waiting list in the future, community members doubted that could happen.
PBN: What has been the biggest challenge?
MULLEN: The biggest challenge at Kuss was not what you would expect. In fact, teachers, parents and students have been most cooperative, even when we proposed having a longer school day – Kuss is part of and, I hope, a leader in the Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time initiative. The biggest challenge has been and continues to be maintaining improvement, increasing rigor and targeting skills needs in our students. •
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