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Principal rejoins education after 2-year hiatus

The persona of a principal is often portrayed as an anonymous, removed figure of authority holed up in meetings and conference calls. However, new principal Todd Bennett aims to break this stereotype with his passion for relationships with students.

After a week of classes, Bennett, who has 21 years of experience in education, sat down to discuss his new position.

Quiring: What led you into education in the first place? What was your first job?

Bennett: I was a disk jockey on the radio working midnight to six playing oldies. After a few months I realized it wasn’t very fulfilling — I wasn’t affecting anybody. I had a friend that suggested I try teaching. From the first day of student teaching, I absolutely loved it. My dad [Bob Bennet, former Fresno State baseball coach] was a teacher, so I’m used to that whole mindset: having a purpose of making society better, teaching kids how to succeed in life.

Quiring: What is the hardest job you’ve ever done, and why?

Bennett: Owning my own insurance business (2008-09) was very hard because I am not a good salesman. I had been very good as a teacher and administrator, and I went into this other business and wasn’t very good at it.

But I do think you learn from every experience a person has, good or bad. I learned a lot about insurance and financial services, and there is definitely a difference between being in charge of something and actually being the owner of something.

Quiring: What do you consider the most formative years of your life, and why?

Bennett: From my childhood until I was 27. I had a great family growing up — very solid, my parents lived in the same house for 40 years. There were a bunch of kids my age on my street; it was idyllic and sort of a Leave it to Beaver neighborhood; we played all the time. It was very stable. I had this protected life growing up where I knew right from wrong, and I knew to choose right.

After I graduated from college and had to start living, it got a little more difficult. You get out in the world and start failing and you start learning from your failures really quickly. But I have always had this strong thing to fall back on.

Quiring: Where did you go to college?

Bennett: I went to Fresno State for undergrad, and then I went back to get my teaching credential at State. I got my Master’s at National University in 1996 and I’m now working on a doctorate through the University of Laverne.

Quiring: How did your faith play into your job, especially in public schools?

Bennett: It was tricky, because there are a lot of Christian teachers and administrators out there [in Clovis], but you can’t be open about it. A lot of people didn’t know I was a Christian. You really walk a fine line in public school. There are laws that you have to follow, and you can get yourself in trouble, and make sure you’re not offending kids. I tried to be a good example and when people ask, say, ‘I’m a Christian.’

Quiring: Is there one thing that makes all the work and stress worthwhile for you at the end of the day?

Bennett: When I make daily connections with kids; when I know that I’m able to show them that I care about them and they’re important. It really helps when I see adults that I taught and they say that I was a positive influence. When I was a teacher, I loved to teach cartoons. I love it when adults come back and say, ‘I still draw those things.’

Quiring: What do you do to relax and unwind?

Bennett: My passion outside of education and my family is still theater. I love to act, but I can’t do it right now. Theater takes up so much time. I was in A Few Good Men at Second Space Theater two years ago. There comes a time in a person’s life where they have to put their own interests aside for the sake of their children. Right now my biggest hobby is going home and being with my family.

Quiring: What was your first impression of Fresno Christian?

Bennett: My first impression was as a public school teacher knowing kids who went here. I didn’t realize how small it was, but I always heard good things about it. My first real impression was when I really had my eyes open, after I got hired, over the summer. I was really impressed by how many teachers spent the summer here getting ready for the year.

The biggest difference in student behavior is that students pick up after themselves — no litter! After kids went back to class, I expected to see kids leaving trash everywhere.

Quiring: What are your goals for the school year? Is there one that is most important?

Bennett: The most important thing for this school year is to rebuild trust and a sense of community and family among our teachers, our students and our families. Last year because of the economic crisis, enrollment dropped and that meant teachers had to be let go, and that was devastating for our community. We want to refocus on why we’re here — helping kids. We’re really here to lead kids to a lifetime of worship and service to the Lord.

Quiring: How did you feel when you went home after the first day of school?

Bennett: I was elated because I’m back doing what I love, and in such a great atmosphere! I truly believe God gave me those experiences for the purpose of bringing me and my family to this school.

For more information on Bennett, check out New leader on campus.

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