Robinson Secondary School’s new principal Matt Eline didn’t set out to be a teacher.
When he was a student at the University of Massachusetts majoring in microbiology, Eline said he planned to become a doctor.
It wasn’t until his junior year during an internship that he learned he didn’t enjoy being around blood and sick people.
"I figured it was probably not a good idea to become someone in the health field if I couldn’t handle that,” said Eline with a laugh.
His father, who was a teacher and later a principal, eventually urged Eline to enroll in a few education courses when he returned from the internship. That’s when Eline’s path in life changed.
"I found that I really enjoyed it,” said Eline of the education classes. “Working with students is truly one of the most rewarding things. It’s sort of an adrenaline rush. You plan something and they get excited about it, and you know they’re learning. I don’t think there’s anything better than that."
That adrenaline rush is just one of the things Eline’s looking forward to when Robinson students arrive on the first day school in September.
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) announced Eline as Principal Dan Meier’s successor back in June. Meier retired as principal of Robinson in April.
Eline said the reception he’s received so far from Robinson parents and faculty has been “incredible” and he’s grateful for the warm welcome into another Ram family (Rocky Run Middle School’s mascot, where Eline served as principal for the last three years prior to coming to Robinson, is also a Ram).
Before accepting the position, Eline said he did his research and knew he had big shoes to fill as Meier’s successor.
“Dan is a legend. He’s a leader of people. It’s a little tough to follow someone that good, but I’m just going to be myself,” said Eline.
Instead of being intimidated by Meier’s reputation, Eline said he focused on the “impressive and strong” loyalty of the Robinson parents, students and faculty.
“That type of loyalty is something you don’t get everywhere. I’ve been overwhelmed at how deeply people feel about this school and the way they go the extra mile to make sure this is an amazing school,” said Eline. “People who feel really strongly about their school feel that way because it’s doing well and they’ve invested in it.”
Of all the things he’s looking forward to most in his new role as principal of Robinson, Eline said he’s excited about meeting the students when school starts on Sept. 3. He plans to visit as many classrooms as possible and observe the students as they learn.
“That’s the fun part of it, to be in there while they’re learning,” said Eline.
Although he’s learned a lot in the last few weeks (his first official day as principal was July 8), Eline said he anticipates the challenges ahead and looks forward to overcoming them.
“I expect they’ll be challenges here just like there are every school year and have been at every school I’ve ever been in. I think it’s about how you handle them. To me, challenges are an opportunity to shine and turn something around into a positive,” said Eline.
Although Eline isn’t new to the role of principal, this is the first time he’s served as principal of a secondary school.
“There are some differences in structure, but I think it’s a positive thing. It’s easier [at a secondary school] because kids can transition a lot easier. They’re used to the building and set up already. But, teachers at any school are teachers and students at any school are students.”
His primary responsibility as principal, according to Eline, is to support all Robinson students and serve as a positive influence for them.
“That’s really my job. I’m going to do anything I can to help the students succeed. I want to encourage them to give 100 percent in everything they do, whether they’re in the drama club, on the basketball team, or simply learning in the classroom,” said Eline. “I’m going to be there and help [the students] succeed. I hope they see me as a positive influence in their life and as a champion to them.”
While the students are his main focus, Eline said he’s also willing to work with any parent that reaches out to him.
“I relate to parents very well. I am one, so I understand what it’s like. I want to work with parents to make this school an environment where kids thrive, where they’re able to find their passion in life and go on wherever that takes them on the next step in their journey,” said Eline.
To hear more from Eline, check out his blog on the Robinson Secondary School website.