SKOWHEGAN — Monique Poulin didn’t take any shortcuts on her way to becoming the new principal at Skowhegan Area High School.

Poulin, 46, grew up in Skowhegan, played field hockey for legendary coach Paula Doughty and played softball at the high school, graduating in 1985. She even taught there briefly before taking jobs elsewhere, most recently as principal at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington.

This month she comes home, full circle.

“I’m excited to come back here. I believed I received a very solid education here,” Poulin said. “I’m anxious to give back to the school that gave me that.”

Poulin, who lives in Kingfield with her husband, Todd Towle, a fly-fishing guide, and their two school-age children, takes over as principal from Rick Wilson, who retired in June after six years at the high school.

“Everyone has been super-welcoming, and I think a piece of that has to do with the fact that some of the people who were here knew me, either being a student here — and that number is dwindling quickly — but I also taught here for a year, so some of the teachers that are currently here were teachers at that time.”

Poulin was born in New Delhi, India, at a time when her father, Roger Poulin, of Skowhegan, worked as an economist for the U.S. State Department. The family also lived for six years in Africa. When Monique was 11 or 12 years old, her father decided it was time to settle down, give his children roots and move back to his native Skowhegan.

He purchased Towne Motel from his uncle when Monique was in sixth grade. The Poulins still own the motel on Madison Avenue, and they live in the house her father grew up in just a half mile from the high school on West Front Street.

Monique was enrolled at Margaret Chase Smith Elementary School in Skowhegan, and for a young girl who had lived all of her life in warm climates, the move to Maine was quite a shock, she said.

“I was pretty shocked by the weather,” Poulin remembers. “When you’re in sixth grade and all of a sudden you need winter clothes, it’s shocking. I don’t remember a lot of it other than the temperature change, and we lived at the motel at the time.”

Roger Poulin’s State Department duty assignments in Africa included Ivory Coast and Nigeria. Her parents placed her in a French school for three years, a move that would help guide her career in education.

After graduating from Boston College with a liberal arts degree in economics and spending a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, Poulin moved back to Skowhegan in 1990 and started working as a waitress at Charrier’s Restaurant on Madison Avenue.

It was there that someone from Skowhegan overheard her speaking French to Canadian tourists and alerted the high school, where the French teacher, Lucille Faucher-Kuhlman — the current assistant principal at the high school — was taking a year off for maternity leave.

“I applied for the job and was lucky enough to get it, and that really was the beginning of a very fulfilling career for me,” she said. “I haven’t ever gone away from education from that moment.”

After that year of teaching French, Poulin moved around, teaching French for a year at Mount View High School in Thorndike, environmental studies at a private school in southern Maine, and later moving to Deering High School and King Middle School in Portland. After that, in 1998, she decided to go to graduate school at the University of Southern Maine before being hired as an assistant principal and athletic director at Mt. Blue Middle School in 1999.

For six years she was principal at Mt. Blue High School including during a three-year $64 million renovation and construction project that included installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system.

This year she decided it was time to come back to Skowhegan to be principal of the high school.

“I’d been in that district for 15 years and I was ready. I think change is healthy and it helps us grow, and I think it will help make me a better educator with a new setting, new environment,” she said. “My goal is to work collaboratively with the faculty and with the Somerset Career Tech Center, Marti Stevens Learning Center and adult ed.

“I make sure that we all own what we’re doing to maximize student opportunity and support. With 800 students in this high school, there 800 different pathways that students take. It’s a mutual respect between the adults and the students in the building.”

Freshmen are scheduled to start school Tuesday, with all other students starting on Wednesday.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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