Marston Elementary principal named best in New Hampshire

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By Lisa Tetrault-Zhe

Hampton Union, January 10, 2014

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Lois Costa surrounded by 4th graders
Lois Costa, principal of Marston Elementary School in Hampton,
has been chosen as Principal of the Year. Here, some fourth-graders
share in the excitement. [Deb Cram photo]

HAMPTON — On Thursday afternoon, Marston Elementary School Principal Lois Costa dined with her family at Church Landing in Meredith.

No, she wasn't playing hooky from school ...; she was being honored as the elementary school Principal of the Year by the New Hampshire Association of School Principals at its winter conference.

"I was completely surprised, thrilled beyond belief (when I received the call that I'd won)," said Costa, who's been principal at Marston for five years. "I'm very excited. It's a great honor, a validation of all the work we're doing here. It's never about one person but the work we do together."

Costa, who first joined the staff of Marston 14 years ago as assistant principal under David O'Connor (who is now principal of Hampton Academy), was nominated for the award by two staff members. Sue Antico (guidance counselor) and Rosemary Sheehy (reading specialist) said they felt Costa deserved to win because of her commitment to the school.

"She leads by example," Sheehy said. "She's very invested in the school. And she has more energy than the rest of the staff combined."

"I think her work ethic is amazing," Antico agreed. "She leads by example. There's nothing she'd ask of us that she wouldn't be willing to do herself."

Prior to joining the Marston staff, Costa worked for several years as a third-grade teacher at Reeds Ferry Elementary School in Merrimack. She said she most enjoys working with the children.

"I'd say the most enjoyable part of my job is being with the students and staff," Costa said. "We come together every day for a morning meeting, and those are wonderful, when we come together as a community. When educators move up in the ranks, sometimes it's easy not to be connected with the students. But I never wanted that separation."

Her biggest challenge — the changes to education.

"The stresses and demands placed on public education can be tough," Costa said. "There are evaluations and standings, not only at the state but national level. We have to always be thinking about where does Marston stack up. We have to be sure we're meeting every child's needs as well. All of them are from different backgrounds and have different needs."

According to Costa, SAU 90 Superintendent Kathleen Murphy suggested she be nominated for the award, which is presented by the New Hampshire Association of School Principals. Last year, she requested they apply for an EDDY (New Hampshire Excellence in Education award), which they won.

"She's not only a great superintendent, but also a mentor," Costa said. "She has a lot of experience, not only as a superintendent, but also at the state level. Sometimes it takes someone on the outside to recognize and validate our work, and she's done that. When we applied for the EDDYs last year, I didn't think we were ready, but she told us to go for it."

Antico said she admires Costa's connection with all of her students.

"In the role of principal, you're leading the school. Academics take the forefront, as they should," Antico said. "But with Lois, there's a personal level. She always asks what she can do if there's a situation at school with a student. I don't think that happens everywhere. She reaches out to the students. Students talk about her, not that they had to go to the principal's office because of a bad decision, but that they went snowshoeing with her, for example."

After submitting the paperwork, Antico and Sheehy had to submit five letters of recommendation. Following that, Costa did a phone interview with the 12 member committee, and they did a school visit last month.

Costa holds a bachelor's degree in family consumer studies and elementary education from the University of New Hampshire, as well as a master's degree in education from UNH. She is currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Southern New Hampshire University.

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