Saddle Brook Vice Principal Settles into New Role
From newsroom to classroom to main office, an ever changing career culminates in John Lawlor's first year as Saddle Brook High School vice principal.
For much of his life, John Lawlor would probably not have anticipated the role he assumed last September. But the jobs he's taken on through his adult life led naturally into his first year as Saddle Brook High School vice principal.
“I would have been the last guy in high school to think I’d be a teacher,” Lawlor said. “I think the real passion for learning and education started in college for me, when I started to be able to create my own program and pursue courses and subjects I was passionate about.”
Born in Brooklyn and raised in East Brunswick, he studied political science and geography at Towson University in Maryland before moving on to a career in media after graduation. He bounced around papers on Long Island and the Jersey Shore, ending up as a web editor at the New York Daily News.
But a demanding schedule and other interests left him with an “itch” to move into education during his seven-year stint at the paper, he said. “The hours put you on the opposite schedule of the rest of the world. Working when people are sleeping. Working on holidays. Part of me was looking for something with a little more stability. I also loved the content of history and wanted to go back and do that.”
He went back to school at Kean University for a master’s in education, moving into a new career teaching history, first middle school then high school, in Fort Lee. “I started at the time developing new programs, taking on different roles, and found myself falling into leadership positions. And I felt like moving into administration was the natural progression of my career,” he told Patch.
After another master’s, this time in education administration, he began interviewing for positions last spring and found the opening in Saddle Brook to be a good fit. And his media experience, which has always helped make his lessons relevant to students and qualified him to supervise extra-curricular activities like the middle school yearbook and high school newspaper, gave him the interpersonal skills that administrative work demands.
“I found that the administration’s been very supportive,” Lawlor said. “With somebody that is now stepping into a new role, there’s going to be a learning curve. The staff has been very professional and open to working with me, and I try to help them out as best I can. So I think it’s been a very smooth transition.”
His role now involves supporting teachers, keeping up new technology, and, of course, disciplining students—a challenge he had not faced often before. And while many of us remember our vice principal only for the occasional office visit after a youthful transgression or two, he’s tried hard in his first year not to fit the stereotype.
“I think the way to avoid just being that guy that everybody hates is to try to be there for reasons where they’re not just coming into contact with you when they do something wrong,” he said, adding that he hopes his visibility in classrooms, hallways, and at sports games will help him build positive rapport with students.
When you leave the classroom and move into the main office, he says, there’s a level of unpredictability and challenges that no lesson plan can address. But after the various turns his career has taken, he seems to be settling into his new role well.
“I do miss being in the classroom, but I am happy I made the change. I sincerely mean that. The challenges that come up every day, what I’m learning about education from outside my classroom and seeing the picture—it’s been a great experience so far.”