Cresskill, N.J. — His past three years as English Department supervisor was something of a yellow brick road to his dream job at the Edward H. Bryan School, new Principal Erik Roth says.
It was the elementary school's spirit that sparked his interest in the post.
"Whenever I talk to people about Bryan School they say, ‘Oh they’ve got great atmosphere over there, a great energy',” said Roth, 43, who lives in Oradell with his wife, Jen, and two children, Naomi, 9, and Harrison, 6. “This is a position I’m looking at as a long-term commitment."
The Colgate University graduate joined the district in 2001, meaning 9/11 — a “wild crash course on how to navigate something you can’t plan for or even dream of” — occurred during his very first week teaching at then-Cresskill Jr./Sr. High School.
Roth said he encouraged those seniors in his Humanities elective to assemble their own records of the event after then-Assistant Principal Paul Diverio first announced the attacks that morning. These became individual journals.
“It just amazed me — the bravery and the focus — they just did it, " Roth said. "In some crazy way, I think it helped to ground us.”
Although he's taking on a new role, Roth brings experience: While completing certification to become a principal, he occasionally filled in for Bryan School's former principal, Mike Hendel.
"I learned a lot through that experience,” Roth said. “It not only gave me a feel for the elementary role but for Bryan School as a place.”
The new principal doesn’t plan any radical immediate changes.
“A lot of that first year is about observing so you can start making those initial determinations about what to do,” he said.
Down the line, Roth said, he hopes to make use of his language arts training to strengthen the curriculum.
“Literacy is a thread that runs through a lot of the content areas via the Common Core," he said. "Because I come from that background, literacy will inevitably be an area of focus for me."