Madonna Heights Welcomes New Principal Carmen Pinto

Carmen PintoAs Carmen Pinto drove home from her first day as principal of SCO’s Madonna Heights School in early July, she was struck by a strong feeling that taking this new position was the best possible decision she could have made. The feeling stayed with her throughout her daily commute to and from the Madonna Heights campus every day during her first week, cementing her belief that she had really found her perfect job.

Ms. Pinto has been an educator in New York City for 18 years, previously serving as a classroom teacher, Dean of Students, Assistant Principal and, most recently, as a Talent Coach with the NYC Department of Education, where she shared her expertise with principals of 35 different schools.

“I’ve always felt the need to work in a place where I feel like I can make a difference in a child’s life,” Pinto said. As principal of the Madonna Heights School, she is thrilled to be able to work with vulnerable young women, a population that is especially in need of advocates, she says. Pinto is passionate about educating and empowering young women. She wants to foster a strong sense of solidarity among the students, as well as to help them become effective advocates for themselves and each other.

Carmen Pinto Art 3“They need a little more of that sisterhood love,” she said. “That really drew me in. I went to an all-girls school, so I feel like I’m coming home.”

Pinto has big plans for her new home at Madonna Heights, including changing the curriculum to make it more rigorous, engaging and interactive. “As a school, we need to be addressing students’ interests, increasing academic and cognitive engagement, but doing it as a team.” In practice, this would have teachers collaborating across disciplines to create a more integrated approach to covering the subject matter.

“I always look at the work I do in relation to student outcomes,” Pinto said, explaining that she often gauges her own success as an educator by the success of ‘that one student’ who really seems to be struggling. “To see that child growing, learning and developing – that’s when you know you’ve done your job. I feel like that gives my life real meaning.”

Carmen Pinto ArtPinto says she’s overwhelmed by the staff’s commitment, dedication and investment in the girls’ well-being. One example, she says, is art teacher Vardi Mortellaro and Karen Dudley, the classroom aide, who have forsaken their lunch breaks so that the art room is always available to the students, who literally run there from lunch in order to spend as much of their time there as possible. In addition to providing a chance for artistic expression, such as jewelry making, the space has become a sanctuary, Pinto observed.

“After working in the education system for so long, to see people so emotionally invested, I’m almost blown away by the staff’s commitment,” she said. “This can be a challenging population to work with, but regardless of the difficulties the MH staff might encounter, they’re always smiling.”

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