The one place you may not be able to find Matthew Shields, new Archbold Middle School principal, is in his office.
Shields describes himself as very visible.
“I think it’s very important to build relationships with the kids and with the teaching staff,” he said.
“Before school, I think it’s very important to greet the kids as they come in the door, say goodbye as they leave, and be visible in the lunchroom.”
He also plans to visit classrooms regularly, and help with instruction if he can.
In a special meeting, Tuesday, June 12, the Archbold Area School Board voted to hire Shields for the middle school position, which was left vacant when Royal Short moved into the high school principal post.
Short replaces Tim Meister, who is leaving to take over as superintendent at Four County Career Center.
Shields has been the principal of Millcreek-West Unity elementary school since 2011. He was assistant principal and athletic director in 2010-11.
He joined the district in 2004 as the athletic director and special education teacher.
He also has worked in the Oregon City and Swanton Local school districts as a special education teacher, and with the Northwest Ohio Educational Service Center as a special education teacher assigned to the Stryker School District.
He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1993, completed a master’s in educational psychology at Miami (of Ohio) University in 1998, and earned his principal’s license in 2006 at Bowling Green State University.
His job in Archbold starts Aug. 1.
Shields said as an undergraduate student, he was very interested in psychology.
“One of the areas I found interesting was the study of exceptional children,” he said.
He had a chance to work with adults suffering from mental illness, but, “I always liked working with kids, so I transitioned over to a program for youth with behavioral disorders. I really found that rewarding.”
He enjoyed working as a special education teacher.
“I loved working with the kids. I worked with a sort of smaller group of kids, so you become very close to them. Sometimes, you work with the same kids over a number of years,” he said.
At the same time, he always had an interest in leadership.
“I always thought it was something that appealed to me.
“I was lucky enough to move over to Millcreek-West Unity schools to be the athletic director over there.
“I had a background in athletics (he played varsity baseball for three years at Wesleyan), so that gave me some opportunities for leadership experience, decision making experience– all those kinds of things.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve been a principal for two years. It’s probably been the most rewarding two years I’ve found in education.”
Being a principal “is a position where you can really make a difference in a lot of areas, school-wide,” he said.
“It’s a challenge. I like the challenge. There’s something new everyday.”
He also enjoys working with middle-school age students.
He said he specifically looked for opportunities to work with middle-school age children, for no better reason than when he was a kid, he enjoyed middle school.
"I look back on that time very fondly.”
Middleschoolers “are going through that stage of life, they’re finding their way, they’re finding out who they are,” he said.
His wife, Kristin, has been a second-grade teacher at Archbold for a number of years. They moved to Archbold a few years ago.
They have a 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Anna.
He said Archbold is a school district with high expectations and a commitment to progress. He said he also wants to work in the district where his daughter will go to school.
“I think Archbold is a great place for families,” he said. “It’s a very family-oriented community with good churches, community organizations, and schools.
“It’s a special place in that way, and I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work here.”
Will a trip to Mr. Shields’ office be an experience of stark terror for a middle school student?
“No, not at all,” he said. “But I think it is appropriate for kids to have a healthy respect” for the principal.
“Maintaining good discipline in the building is important, but I believe in preventative discipline, by building relationships with kids.
“I want to make sure that kids know that when a discipline problem is addressed, given that there will be consequences to bad decisions afterwards, we still love them.
“I try to follow up afterwards and make sure we still have a strong relationship.”