by Annabelle Wang ’22
Published Mar. 10th, 2022
The first day after winter break is rarely an anticipated event, but Mrs. Pino-Beattie was ready for a new challenge on the crisp and early morning of January 3, 2022. For the first time, in 12 years, she walked into the office without Mr. Popadiuk.
As the new principal of MHS, Mrs. Pino has much to share about the development of her career and passion in education, as well as her plans for the future.
Mrs. Pino on Finding Her Place in the World
While the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and mounting student stress create quite a formidable challenge, Mrs. Pino is not someone to back down from an obstacle.
The path she took to her current position was anything but smooth or predictable. Instead, her experiences culminated to reinforce her skills with dedication and clear sighted passion.
“I originally wanted to be an architect,” she explained, but later “found myself as an English major with a psychology minor.” Still unsure of what to do with herself, she happened to seize an opportunity to fill in as a teacher in Trenton—and fell in love.
From there, she taught as an English teacher and traveled across the country as an inner city specialist to help more students achieve success on the AP Literature and Language exams. However, when she chanced upon an interview to work as a counselor at MHS, she immediately knew there was no other place she’d rather work.
She credits “just doing the next right thing” as the belief system that led her to Montgomery, where she found “a different level of caring from staff members and students, and just a different energy.”
Looking ahead, Mrs. Pino breaks her vision down into three parts: identifying and supporting each student’s unique academic potential, supporting mental health beyond cliche posters, and giving people the space they need to be the best version of themselves.
In regards to academic potential, Mrs. Pino said that she’s “not talking about straight As or taking every AP.” Rather, she hopes each student can “find where [they] fit the best, what feels right for [them], and push [themselves] forward.” She has already introduced three new courses to the 2022-23 syllabus to offer more opportunities for students to discover their interests. These include a foundational language course, a new social studies elective, and a course for future educators.
The foundational language course will allow students to analyze how people access language through the lens of societal conflicts, as “there’s a reason why some languages rise up and others get knocked down.” Meanwhile, students will also have an opportunity to focus on race, gender, and culture in the new social studies elective.
Mrs. Pino reflected that these topics were part of a “certain wave that pitted out. That’s not something that’s happening here. They’re important to our kids, our staff, and our families.” These, together with additional plans for future syllabus additions, break away from the typical linear progressions of classes in an attempt to convince students to slow down and step off the “kindergarten to Harvard steeplechase,” as Mrs. Pino put it.
Doing the Next Right Thing
Building on her goal of having difficult conversations, Mrs. Pino is deeply passionate about mental health. She noted that with the popularity of social media, people can post simple memes, photos, and quotes and dismiss the work that truly goes into being mentally healthier. “There’s a whole piece that’s missing,” she said. “We need to work in quiet hours and take the time to reflect, walk through our experiences, and gain a new understanding. We need to do stuff that’s really hard. That’s when you become mentally healthy.”
She is working to provide classrooms with fidget toys and other small activities, as well as supporting MHS’s STARR program, student and counselor relationships, and teachers. “I’ve always prided myself that at MHS, we push past just checking a box. It’s saying, ‘Yeah, but.’”
Finally, Mrs. Pino is more than just an advocate for equity. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, she recalled that “there weren’t teachers or principals like me. The message used to be that you can’t be all of yourself; there was an assimilation piece.” She expressed warm gratitude towards MHS administration and faculty who supported her to be her whole self, and added that “if I could give any gift, it would be to be the best version of yourself. Let us give you the space to do that.” To get there, the school will “always need students to say, ‘You’re doing this almost right but.’ We make changes as we go, and it’s exciting.”