40 Under 40 Class of 2020

Melissa Knowles

Principal, Veterans Park School, Ludlow; Age 37; Education: St. Michael’s College (BA), Springfield College (MA), American International College (CAGS)

Among her many achievements, Knowles has developed standards for academic achievement, incorporated more arts into the curriculum, developed mentoring programs for students, and introduced Grow the Good, a program in which students and staff perform acts of kindness for Ludlow residents.

Melissa Knowles

Melissa Knowles

What did you want to be when you grew up? Since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a teacher. I used to force my younger brother to play school at home when we were kids. I would write on the chalkboard and take every opportunity to take charge and tell him what to do. And I always loved school supplies! When I was about 11, I started my own birthday-party business with a friend, and we would plan games and activities at birthday parties. It was my first experience actually leading a group of children, and I never stopped after that.

What’s been your biggest professional accomplishment so far in your career? Being awarded the job as principal at 28 years old. Although I wasn’t sure I was ready to leave the classroom so soon, I have no regrets and am proud of all I have accomplished with my staff and students in my nine years as principal.

What do you do for fun? As the mother of two very happy and excitable boys, most of my fun revolves around spending time with them. I enjoy watching my oldest play sports, spending time outside, going on adventures or getaways with my husband and kids, and getting together with family and friends. I also appreciate when I can sneak some time on my own to shop, especially at Target or HomeGoods.

What will work colleagues say at your funeral? Hopefully they will say I was a leader and role model, that I was passionate about kids and education, and that I had a big heart and put everything I had into everything I did. I hope they will say I was creative and had an ability to think outside the box, not afraid to take risks, but willing to try something new or innovative — and always encouraged others to do the same. I hope they will say I was kind and compassionate and valued each and every person for who they are, that I showed everyone respect, regardless if we always agreed, and that I truly was so proud of everything we accomplished together.

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