A 17-year veteran of the educational world with ventures in math education and counseling, as well as stints as director of guidance, assistant principal and a one-time principal, Angelo DeStefano brings a fresh approach to the role of principal of Williamstown High School.
DeStefano, a product of a blue-collar, working-class family, was unsure of what he wanted to do career wise outside of high school. He didn’t enroll in college until he was 21, almost 22, years old. Though he majored in math at Rowan University, he decided to take his talents to the classroom and teach math. His goal was to make a difference in the lives of students like him who might not have a set direction in high school.
“Take students like me who aren’t that interested in school. I started thinking back, what would have happened to me if somebody intervened like that when I was in elementary school or high school and showed they cared and showed me what could happen and the benefits of being a good student and developing good study habits, exposing me to different careers,” DeStefano said.
From teaching, he transitioned into a counselor’s office before becoming the director of guidance. From there, he became an administrator, and as of this summer ,he is the newest principal at Williamstown High School.
Before school started he spoke to his staff and shared his leadership philosophy, a culmination of things from leadership he worked under as a teacher and counselor.
“I think about the really good ones, the ones who made my job better and easier to do, the ones who made my job fun to do and made productive years, were the ones who removed obstacles and let the good teachers and staff members who had good ideas contribute and share those ideas and implement things,” he said.
DeStefano stressed he doesn’t have an ego and wishes to remove as many obstacles as he can.
“My job as a leader is to remove obstacles and let the smart people I’m working with flourish,” he added.
DeStefano believes visibility to be an important part of his job. He mentioned it can be easy to stay in his office, but observing in the hallways or classrooms gives him the best chance to give feedback to the teachers and staff.
As he starts a new year in a new district, DeStefano is most looking forward to immersing himself in the community. He referenced a kickball game that was held on Aug. 31 at Owens Park he attended where he introduced himself to the community.
“I felt like I was at a family party,” he joked.
One of the ways he’s looking to break down the barrier, so to speak, is by hosting coffee with the principal dates with options available for people of all work schedules. He wants to schedule some during the school day, some on the evenings and even some Saturdays. He will provide coffee and doughnuts as well as some possible talking points, but the floor will be open to members of the community.
When he’s not in the office or out and about at the high school, DeStefano can be found with his wife and two kids, spending time with his family.
“For the past dozen years or so I’ve been focused on that,” he said.
He described himself as the dad who’s always outside playing with the neighborhood kids, whether that means he’s the steady quarterback in the neighborhood game of football or the pitcher for the home run derby, he looks forward to spending time with his kids.
“I love kids. When you’re an educator you’re always educating somebody all the time. It’s like your life’s mission,” he said.
Aside from that he enjoys hobbies like golf as well as traveling. He has a home garden where he grows watermelon, tomatoes, scallions, eggplant, cucumbers, lettuce and figs. He said he made a delicious fig jam with his daughter this summer.
If DeStefano could relay one message to the community it would be that he loves kids, which makes sense judging by the profession he picked.
“I love kids, I think that’s the number one thing. When you’re being interviewed, I’ve gone on a lot of interviews and that’s one question I’ve never been asked. When I interview people that’s one question I ask – you have to like kids and you have to like people to be in education,” he said.
DeStefano touts his patience as one of his best traits as well as his ability to listen and listen actively.
“I’ll help out as much as I can. Time is only going to tell, I’ll have to prove that to everybody, that I care,” he said. “I would want to know the people in charge of my kids’ school actually like children, they love their job and they love educating people and they care about what the community thinks,”
As a family man who cherishes his bond with those who share his last name as well as accepting neighborhood kids as adopted family, he is ready to embrace his new family. The Williamstown Braves family.
“I’m hoping to be a lifer here,” he said.