Matthew Moyer (MEdʼ02) has been named Pennsylvania’s Distinguished National Principal by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). Moyer, who earned a Master of Education with a Principal’s Certification at Cabrini, recently began his 16th year as Principal at Rupert Elementary School in Pottstown.
Moyer attended Rupert Elementary as a child and has a strong desire to give back to his community—a community that has seen vast socioeconomic changes since his childhood.
“Pottstown had a lot of blue-collar workers when I was a kid, and then those jobs left, and the town changed a lot,” Moyer said, indicating that high poverty affects part of the area. “I feel drawn to helping the kids and helping this area.”
Moyer said the Distinguished Principal award, which is peer-nominated and recognizes principals serving students in Pre–K through grade 8, is a testament to the accomplishments of his entire staff. Together, they wear “many hats” in an “underfunded, small district,” he said. Moyer is particularly proud of Pottstown School District’s Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Program that he introduced 10 years ago and currently leads while serving as the district’s Safety Coordinator. The program includes internationally standardized intervention training with de-escalation tactics.
“I feel good about that,” he said, “because if you can’t provide a safe school, you can’t provide a quality education.”
Although Moyer’s duties as Principal have taken him out of the everyday classroom setting, he brings a fun-loving personality to the school. He has incentivized students to participate in school fundraisers and improve standardized test scores by performing a number of stunts, including cutting his hair into a purple Mohawk and getting slimed, Nickelodeon-style. He also created the “principal taxi service,” in which he rewards students by transporting them on his office chair to class.
In July, Moyer released a children’s book, The Fractured Flower Pot, the first in a series of books he plans to publish in hopes of teaching young students social and emotional learning skills, such as empathy and problem solving. He drew on a childhood experience in which he and his brother had to handle the fallout of breaking their grandfather’s flower pot for the book. Moyer hopes the book series will engage children, while functioning as a resource for both teachers and parents.
Just as he is using his book to teach through real-life examples and scenarios, Moyer said the empirical, hands-on learning he experienced at Cabrini was a major benefit of his education.
“All of my principalship courses at Cabrini were taught by current principals or former principals who had only recently become superintendents,” he said. “It wasn’t just theory, but real, on-the-ground education, where the instructor would describe a situation that had happened that day and ask, ‘What would you do?’”
Moyer said he similarly relies on the firsthand knowledge and experiences of his faculty to inform school-wide decisions and policies, especially in the unprecedented educational landscape presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have the best people, the most dedicated people, which has been especially clear over the past six to eight months,” he said.
In a statement, NAESP Executive Director L. Earl Franks, PhD, said, “Principals have rightly earned the reputation as the most trusted group of leaders. It is because, even during times of uncertainty and challenges such as sudden school closures due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, principals are on the front lines, relentlessly striving toward educational excellence and well-being for each child in their care. On behalf of the Board of Directors, I salute the 2020 NAESP National Distinguished Principals and principals everywhere.”
Moyer’s presence at Rupert Elementary is entirely virtual for now, as Pottstown School District will conduct classes online until at least January. Still, he continues to rely on his fundamental calling to give back to his community and support the best outcomes for his students.
“Everyone has their calling and skills,” he said. “I tell kids and teachers, ‘You have to find things that motivate you in life, that bring you joy.’ … I get to see these kids grow up and go on to college and be successful.”