Congratulations to Matt Neustadt on his appointment to principal of Herrick Middle School. Not only is the new principal-to-be a Downers Grover lifer, he attended Dist. 58 schools, including Herrick, as a child. Patch asked Mr. Neustadt what it’s like to become principal of a school where he was once a student.
Patch: When you were a student at Herrick, did you ever think you'd come back as the "school principal." Do you "flash back" when you're walking through the halls?
Mr. Neustadt: Honestly, while I was a student at Herrick I never would have imagined that I would have ended up back at Herrick as the instructional leader of the school. While I was attending Herrick, I thought I would be an accountant or something with numbers. There have been a few times, while serving as the assistant principal that I have had some "flashbacks." Each year on Grandparents' Day, I have a photo from the yearbook from when I was in 8th grade. In the slideshow, we show a picture of my two grandmothers at my Grandparents' Day from when I was a student.
Patch: What are some of your memories of attending Herrick and Dist. 58 schools in general? Do you remember your first day as a student at Herrick?
Mr. Neustadt: My number one memory of attending Herrick was meeting new people and making lifelong friendships. Another memory I have from when I attended D58 schools was in first grade, while attending Longfellow School, before it was closed. I started in the middle of the year in Mrs. McKenzie's class. From the first day, I was greeted by friendly faces and warm hellos, like I was always a student there.
Patch: When did you decide you wanted to be a teacher? What drew you to the profession?
Mr. Neustadt: While in college, I started coaching 7th and 8th grade students in Panther Football and really enjoyed working with children. My father, David Neustadt, was an educator and a great inspiration to me. He was a principal in several schools including Indian Trail in D58. I saw what he did and how much he loved teaching and being a school leader, and I realized I would follow in his footsteps as an educator.
Patch: Who was your most inspiring teacher at Herrick or Dist. 58 in general?
Mr. Neustadt: When I was a student in District 58, I had many terrific teachers. My most inspiring teacher was Tina Kasson, who I had as a 5th grade teacher. She taught us a lot, but also had made learning fun. I was honored and privileged to return to her classroom when it was time for me to do my full-day student teaching.
Patch: What do you hope to accomplish as principal of Herrick? What are your goals?
Mr. Neustadt: I look forward to continuing to build lasting and positive relationships with students and their families while serving as the principal of Herrick. I will work my hardest to build upon the great things that make Herrick Middle School the amazing school that it is, and look forward to sharing this journey with the community, parents, staff, and most importantly, the students.
Patch: What do you love most about the Downers Grove community?
Mr. Neustadt: I have lived in Downers Grove for the last 38 years with the exception of while I was in college. I love that Downers Grove has a small town feel and that many of us who grew up here have returned to raise our own families here.