New assistant principal finds passion in education

Christine+Pollinger+is+the+new+assistant+principal+for+the+2019-2020+school+year.+She+originally+was+the+program+coordinator+at+Park+Academy+in+River+Vale.
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New assistant principal finds passion in education

Christine Pollinger is the new assistant principal for the 2019-2020 school year. She originally was the program coordinator at Park Academy in River Vale.

Christine Pollinger is the new assistant principal for the 2019-2020 school year. She originally was the program coordinator at Park Academy in River Vale.

Rachel Cohen

Christine Pollinger is the new assistant principal for the 2019-2020 school year. She originally was the program coordinator at Park Academy in River Vale.

Rachel Cohen

Rachel Cohen

Christine Pollinger is the new assistant principal for the 2019-2020 school year. She originally was the program coordinator at Park Academy in River Vale.

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Christine Pollinger originally went to Montclair State University to study fine art. Following college, she worked as a secretary and created art in her free time but then moved to upstate New York to work in a photography studio.

I wasn’t feeling any kind of intrinsic joy from that,” Pollinger said. “Even though I was working in my field, I wasn’t really getting anything from my job.”

Pollinger decided to return to Montclair State for teaching, which she realized was “something really special.” 

Now, after working at Park Academy since 2008, Pollinger has become the new assistant principal after former PV Assistant Principal Debbie Squiccimarri retired following the 2018-2019 school year. Only internal candidates were allowed to interview for the position, according to Pascack Valley Regional High School District Superintendent Erik Gundersen.

“We have a large number of individuals who are qualified to be an administrator and supervisor in our district,” Gundersen told The Smoke Signal last May. “Because this is a one year, interim assistant principal position, I thought this would be a good opportunity to have one of the many individuals who are qualified to get that experience.”

In the beginning of her teaching career, Pollinger became an art teacher at Cresskill High School. She also started substituting, tutoring, and working with children. 

There was something about the human connection that was really exciting for me that you didn’t get in an office setting. You’re cultivating young minds which is not something you get to do in every job.”

— Assistant Principal Christine Pollinger

There was something about the human connection that was really exciting for me that you didn’t get in an office setting,” Pollinger said. “You’re cultivating young minds which is not something you get to do in every job.”

Pollinger decided that she wanted to have a family after working in Cresskill for six years. After having three kids, she worked as a student-teacher mentor for a couple of hours a week.

“I would go all over the place visiting student teachers and help them learn the craft of teaching, evaluate them, give them feedback,” Pollinger said. “I went as far as Randolph, Newark, Nutley, and Fair Lawn. It was really fun to go see what different schools were like and to work with young teachers who were really excited to become teachers and learn how to teach. While I was doing that, I was getting a little bored being home.” 

Pollinger then applied for a part-time art teacher position at Park Academy, a public school in River Vale that assists students in developing functioning and coping skills, for three years.

I think Mrs. Pollinger is going to do a phenomenal job as Assistant Principal at Valley. She has a lot of great ideas, she’s very innovative, and she brings the artistic piece to things.”

— PVRHSD District Coordinator of Special Programs Tara Flannery

“It was one of the most challenging, yet rewarding jobs I’ve ever had,” Pollinger said. “I had to throw out everything I ever knew about teaching and rethink how I was going to teach students who needed more than just to learn art.”

Tara Flannery, the Park Academy program coordinator until 2011, became the District Coordinator of Special Programs for the PVRHSD, and Pollinger took over her position since she had the certificate and had already had experience in supervising student teachers. Flannery said Pollinger and her worked closely together with transitioning eighth graders into high school and being involved with Camp Raspberry while Flannery worked at both Park Academy and in the district.

“I think Mrs. Pollinger is going to do a phenomenal job as Assistant Principal at Valley,” Flannery said. “She has a lot of great ideas, she’s very innovative, and she brings the artistic piece to things. I’m looking forward to being back in the same building.”

Pollinger said she felt like she had grown as much as she could as a supervisor at Park Academy and needed to continue “the growth process.”

“I was working with a very particular population who were amazing children,” Pollinger said. “I loved every minute of working there, but it was time to change things up a little bit and have new experiences. I think it’s important to change gears. It was scary taking that leap.” 

Pollinger is responsible of senior parking, attendance, administrative work, and working closely with tenth and twelfth graders at PV.

“The idea of working with a much larger staff and a broader range of students really was scary but exciting because I started my career in high school and really enjoyed working with high school students,” Pollinger said. “I’m hoping that I can learn everybody’s name, which I know is a big challenge, really connect with everybody, and build relationships with people.”

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