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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 2, 2009

VCSD names new super
Dr. Snyder to engage students

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — Watching the growth of her four children piqued Dr. Teresa Thayer Snyder’s interest in how people learn.

Throughout their childhood, she was involved with education, Snyder said, and, after they were grown, she got a PhD in educational theory and practice while she was working as a school principal.  On Friday, March 27, the Voorheesville school board hired her as the district’s new superintendent.

“Voorheesville is a plum,” said Snyder, who is currently a deputy superintendent in charge of curriculum, instruction, and learning at the Shenendehowa Central School District.  Coming back to a small district, with an office in the school, will be satisfying, she said this week.

Snyder was a principal in Glenmont for seven years, during which time she pursued a graduate degree, which focused on curriculum and instruction.  Her thesis centered on student motivation, she said, explaining that, simply, she thought so-called disenfranchised kids weren’t any more so than those who were thought of as engaged.  “I found I was right,” she said.

As part of her research, Snyder studied “student strategizing,” she said, which is basically the way children cope with going to school, how they can get the best outcome for the least amount of effort.

During that time, one student in her school was a frequent visitor in Snyder’s office, she said, recalling that one day she said to him, “It must be really frustrating that you’re the one who always gets caught.”  He appreciated the understanding.

“It changed my entire conversation with kids,” she said of her thesis, concluding that you can get different kinds of insights if you change the way you talk, or relate to people.

“It really did impact me,” she said.

Growing up, Snyder always liked school, leaning towards math and science as a child and growing into a lover of the humanities in high school.  She moved from her New England home to join the first class of women to graduate from Siena College in Loudonville, transferring there in her junior year, she said. 

“It was unusual,” Snyder said of being in such a small minority, going on to mention that there are currently more women than men enrolled at Siena, an increasing trend in higher education.

Snyder continued her study of philosophy by taking courses at the University of Vermont, she said, before moving back to the area to get married.  For a time, she thought she might be philosophy professor, but raising four children, Snyder said, she “became fascinated with how people learn.”

Her two sons, Jonathan and Zachary, are now pursuing careers in education, Snyder said, and her two daughters, Amy and Christine, are both in social work, following their father’s lead. 

“It’s the genetic flaw,” she joked.

“Excited about Dr. Snyder”

Snyder, 59, will begin work on July 1, replacing the district’s last superintendent, Linda Langevin, who left last summer.  Dr. Raymond Colucciello has been the acting superintendent.

After three years in Voorheesville, Langevin resigned due to illness in her family, she said at the time.

“Thank you to everyone for a memorable experience working here,” Langevin said at her last school board meeting in August.  The board praised her for the work she had done during her tenure and the school board president, David Gibson, cited her work guiding curriculum development. The district hired its first-ever curriculum coordinator under Langevin’s recommendation.

The board then undertook a nearly year-long search for a new superintendent, which garnered 20 to 30 applicants, Gibson said.  Each of the candidates met with two committees, made up of a dozen or more community members, school staff, and administrators, he said.  The committees submitted evaluations of each candidate to the school board, which called in four people for interviews, Gibson said.

“The board became very… excited about Dr. Snyder,” he said.  She fit well with criteria laid out in a booklet at the beginning of the search, he said, and she has experience at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels.

Snyder, who will make a starting salary of $150,000, also covers the two most central qualifications for a superintendent, Gibson said, she cares about students and she is a good investment for the community.

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