40 Under 40 The Class of 2016

Kate Morneau

Assistant Principal, John R. Fausey Elementary School; Age 39

Kate Morneau

Kate Morneau

As the child of teachers, Kate Morneau has education in her blood.

“My mom taught me about commitment and the balance between work and play, and my dad taught me the importance and rewards of hard work and relationship building,” she said. “At a young age, I started working with kids, teaching tennis, and babysitting, and I vividly remember how joyful that was. So, I knew from a young age I wanted to go into teaching.”

She graduated from Providence College with a dual degree in elementary and special education, then earned a master’s degree in elementary administration. In addition, she and her roommate piloted a writing center at the college that remains an important campus service today.

She began her career working with severe special-needs children in Westfield, then taught fourth grade in Longmeadow, before staying home with her two children for five years and volunteering in the community, including a stint as interim executive director of the Holyoke Children’s Museum. After she returned to the classroom in 2011, teaching fourth grade at John R. Fausey Elementary School in West Springfield, the opportunity arose to become assistant principal — a very different challenge.

“When I was teaching, I planned everything every day, and I knew my students intimately, which was a wonderful thing. As an administrator, I have my primary roles — student discipline, teacher evaluation, and support of school culture — but sometimes I feel like a firefighter, putting out fires all day. You never know what will come your way.”

Still, “I never consider something a problem; I always consider it a challenge,” Morneau added, noting that decisions are easier when she puts the student first — and keeps a sense of humor.

Her many volunteer roles reflect her family’s values, but bring personal benefits as well — for example, her work as an executive board member for the West Springfield Partnership for Education. “It helps me understand the dynamics, demographics, and culture of West Springfield as a whole, not just at Fausey School. To be a good administrator, you need to understand the bigger picture, and it’s cool to collaborate with teachers and administrators throughout the district.”

Morneau would eventually like to teach at the higher-education level and perhaps be a principal someday, but for now, she appreciates her role — and the many role models who helped her get there.

“I love my job,” she said, “and feel it’s part of my duty to give back to the community.”

— Joseph Bednar

Photography by Leah Martin Photography