The Star-Herald

Washburn native hopes to build relationships, serve student needs as new principal

WASHBURN, Maine — For Lisa Dow, walking into Washburn District Elementary School as its new principal reminds her of the close, community-driven atmosphere that motivates teachers and staff members and inspires students to succeed.


“When I walk down the halls, there’s all this artwork hanging up that students have done. It shows the amount of pride people here have in their students,” Dow said.

After 16 years of teaching math and science at Presque Isle Middle School, Dow is thrilled to return to the same elementary school she and her five siblings attended as children.

Dow is also beginning her new career during a particularly challenging time for school systems in Maine. The Washburn School District is working toward bringing students back to both schools on Aug. 19, with alternative plans in place if the number of COVID-19 cases increases substantially in central Aroostook County.

As she works with administrators to implement the new learning plans, Dow has been getting to know the elementary and middle school teachers and learning about their approaches to teaching. 

She views her years as a teacher as good preparation for helping elementary teachers find the best approaches for younger students.

“I love working with children. As elementary educators, we wear many different hats and there’s a lot of creativity involved,” Dow said. “When you see that light bulb go [on] in a students’ mind, that’s very inspiring.”

After graduating from Washburn District High School in 1985, Dow majored in elementary education at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, with a concentration in science and a minor in math. She took 13 years off from working to be a stay-at-home mother and returned to teaching when her youngest child started kindergarten. She later earned her master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Maine.

Dow replaces former elementary school principal Laura Hunter, who also served as the director of special education for SAD 45 and is no longer with the district. As principal, Dow hopes to make a difference in students’ lives in ways that are different from teaching but still rewarding. 

In the weeks ahead, Dow wants to form strong relationships with students and help them navigate the new school structure as they reconnect with teachers and friends. 

“Young people are not used to living in isolation, like we have been doing throughout the pandemic, so we have to consider the social and emotional parts of learning, not just academics,” Dow said. 

During her first weeks on the job, Dow said, her new colleagues have been supportive and fun to work with. She credits the small, tight-knit Washburn community for instilling positivity amidst the challenges and looks forward to seeing students arrive at Washburn Elementary for their first day back to school.

“There’s nothing more special than being able to call a child by their name,” Dow said. “I’m very excited to serve the community that was a big part of my own upbringing.”

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