by TRACY ZOLLINGER TURNER
Over his nearly 30-year career as an educator, Matt Stark has often been asked what he teaches. “The right answer to that question is ‘kids,’” he says.
“My dream is to do my best to stand in what I love to call ‘reflected light.’ If I can find ways to support a student or staff member and help them get their dream … then I get to live in that reflected light of seeing them achieve.”
Stark became Bloomington High School North’s new principal this year after a long legacy as principal at Brown County High School in Nashville, Indiana, where he began his first job as a social studies teacher in 1992.
When Stark was asked if he’d like to try school administration, he had been teaching in classrooms for a decade. “I had always been an advocate that my students needed to take chances and try new things, so I got to put my money where my mouth is.”
As a high school student in Fort Wayne, Stark planned to attend Purdue University and become an aeronautical engineer. Then an opportunity to teach a class in business basics to eighth graders during his senior year led him in a different direction. At Purdue, he switched to history and social studies education. “I remember distinctly realizing that I knew that I have to do this for the rest of my life,” he says. “I have found the thing I love.”
Stark and his wife, Cindy—a master teacher and instructional coach at Brown County Middle School—married in 2018 and have a blended family of six children, ages 20 to 25. Stark has lived in Bloomington for most of the past 20 years, so the opportunity to lead a high school with three times as many students in a community he was already part of held new, exciting challenges.
But there has been the added challenge of coming into the school after the big pivot to online learning last year due to COVID-19. Many sophomores had not set foot in the high school building before this year, while freshmen had missed half of their middle school experience—important times for kids, developmentally.
“I don’t think we have a great appreciation for how hard this has been,” Stark says. “The idea that we can muscle through it and toughen up, I think, is unfortunate. We’ve been owning the fact that we have been through trauma and saying so.”