Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew Malone stopped by for a visit in Peabody Wednesday at Higgins Middle School and liked what he saw. Malone praised faculty and staff for their innovative approach to teaching, despite some obvious challenges with the old school.
Malone first spent several minutes with administrators, staff and local and elected officials talking about plans for the new middle school and several other ongoing programs as well as transitioning into the Common Core curriculum.
Malone offered advice on various points, often drawing from his own recent experience as a superintendent, such as encouraging the city to try and secure maximum flexibility to have movable classroom walls in the new building in order to expand or rearrange the setup as needs arise.
He added that was he pleased to see the school being designed to incorporate STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs as well.
Eighth-graders and Project 351 Student Ambassadors Matthew D'Amato and Katie Wallace also got a chance to meet Malone and show him around the school on a brief tour.
He encouraged both students to start thinking about college plans when they enter high school next year and take advantage of opportunities to go visit campuses. He said no matter what dreams they have for future careers, they will almost certainly need some form of a college education to succeed.
The tour group then stopped in on a few classes, interspersed with Malone peppering both his guides with all sorts of questions.
He gave out high-fives to students and told teachers he was impressed with their innovative efforts, whether that was allowing students to use iPads in math class to share with their peers how they solved problems or a new writing workshop for students.
Peabody Superintendent Joe Mastrocola, who has known Malone for several years, said he was excited when the opportunity arose to have him visit Peabody.
"It's refreshing to have someone who puts teaching and learning first. Far too many educators don't have that mentality," Mastrocola said. "The strength of our education system locally, at the state level and nationally need more people like [Malone]."