New Gould Head of School feels at home in Bethel
Gould Academy’s new Head of School Matt Ruby said he knew he and his wife, Kathy, would be happy in Bethel after their second visit last fall, during the interview process.
They were driving back to the Portland airport to return to their Minnesota home when Kathy said, “How can I feel homesick for a place I’ve never lived?”
Those two visits, Ruby said last week, were enough to make them both feel the tug to return.
They got their wish when the Gould Board of Directors chose Matt to take over from the retiring Dan Kunkle.
Matt brings a broad background to the position. He earned a B.A. in history from Carleton College in Minnesota, where he met his wife. He went on to serve in the U.S. Navy from 1987 to 1993 as an officer, and spent the next several years working in the private sector. He then earned a master’s degree in industrial relations from the University of Minnesota and worked for a time in the trucking business.
But, he said, “I’d been thinking about becoming a teacher since boyhood. After great experiences working in the Navy and the trucking business, I’d learned enough about myself to know that education was my path.”
So he pursued a secondary teaching certification in social studies. He taught first in the Minnesota public school system, going on to teach and serve in administrative roles at the private Breck School from 2002 to 2007.
Ruby most recently served as associate head of school at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Minnesota.
This past year Matt decided the timing was right to become a head of school.
“I was looking for a school that was creative and forward-looking, with a talented staff,” he said. “Gould was at the top of my list.”
The time was also good to look to the east. His son is
a senior at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, his daughter will be a freshman at Ithaca College in New York, and his wife is a native of New York. “Our center of gravity was shifting east,” he said. “And I still have family in Boston.”
Despite his broad geographical background – he was born in Boston, grew up in Montana, attended high school in Houston and lived in Virginia and Pennsylvania - he had never been to Maine before applying for the Gould job.
His assessment on arrival: “Maine is like Minnesota, but with mountains and ocean. That’s better,” he said.
While he doesn’t alpine ski – yet – he jokingly claims a bit of winter sports experience. “I had to snowshoe to work a few times in Minnesota,” he said.
He has also cross-country skied.
The Rubys arrived in Bethel in June, but Matt had been attending board meetings and other Gould functions through the past school year, so he was well on his way to becoming acclimated.
“The school and the town have been incredibly welcoming,” he said.
Kathy’s background is in college administration, but she will not have a full-time position at the school. Still, said Matt, there will be plenty to keep her busy. She plans to take part in the school’s Reach Out community service program, and generally support families and students in Bethel.
For both of them, the upcoming school year “will be about building relationships and learning about the school and the town – that’s Job 1.”
His ultimate goal, he said, “will be to make the school the most agile and creative school around” in dealing with the changes that are happening in the field of education and in the world in general. “I want to make it exciting for the students, and prepare them for whatever is coming their way.”