Mr. Armstrong to Become Head of School at Fessenden

Current Assistant Head of School, Dean of Faculty, and history teacher Mr. Armstrong has been a staple of the Belmont Hill community for nearly two decades. As Assistant Head of School, Mr. Armstrong consults with Dr. Melvoin about decisions concerning the school. Since Mr. Armstrong is Dean of Faculty, he is also in charge of hiring new teachers and overseeing the faculty evaluation process. On top of handling these responsibilities, Mr. Armstrong has also taught throughout the history curriculum, from History 1 up through History 5A. Mr. Armstrong impresses with his ability to balance his administrative, teaching, and coaching duties, each of which are time-consuming, sensitive, and vital to the school. As a coach, Mr. Armstrong made key contributions to Belmont Hill’s Hockey and Soccer programs, ably guiding students through the school’s rigorous athletic culture. Next year, Mr. Armstrong will depart Belmont Hill to assume the role of Head of School at Fessenden, a private all-boys K-9 school in Newton. The Fessenden Search Committee interviewed many accomplished candidates and, although we are sad to see Mr. Armstrong leave Belmont Hill, it is a great honor to be offered a school Headship and there is no doubt he will do an outstanding job at Fessenden.

Mr. Armstrong has been teaching at Belmont Hill for eighteen years.

Mr. Armstrong grew up in Ithaca, New York, with four older brothers who taught him how to stand up for himself. He attributes his success in hockey, which he played at Harvard University with Belmont Hill alumnus and future Hobey Baker Award winner Scott Fusco, to the toughness he learned from his brothers, all of whom played college hockey. In his freshman year at Harvard, Mr. Armstrong admitted to not being a fast skater, even claiming that his sister was the fastest skater in his family. However, his head coach, Belmont Hill graduate Bill Cleary, praised him for his mental and physical toughness: “he’s a tough kid…. You can never count an Armstrong out.” After graduating from Harvard, Mr. Armstrong worked at a consulting firm in Cambridge for two years, then at Northwood School for four years and finally at Rivers School for six years.

Mr. Armstrong came to Belmont Hill from Rivers in 2000, and he has served in many roles during his time here. He has been the Director of the Middle School, the Director of Admissions, a head coach of Third Hockey and assistant coach of Fifth Football and Third B Soccer, and a teacher of Ancient Greece and Rome, US Government, and World Issues courses. For the past few years, Mr. Armstrong has been Assistant Head of School, Dean of Faculty, and a teacher of Modern European History and AP US History. Mr. Armstrong has done a superb job with all three of his positions. Mr. Armstrong’s ability to command respect from students and teachers while remaining well-liked has made him a great Assistant Head of School and Dean of Faculty at Belmont Hill, and will make him a great Head of School at Fessenden. In the classroom, Mr. Armstrong has proven to be an exemplary teacher; he mixes intellectual might with a relaxed class feel focused on student discussion, a combination envied by many teachers and perfected by few. In addition, he turns back papers and tests with remarkable efficiency, especially given his time commitments as Assistant Head of School and Dean of Faculty. Mr. Armstrong has enjoyed his time at Belmont Hill, and says that his favorite part of the school are the people, both students and faculty. For Mr. Armstrong, Belmont Hill is more than just a school, but a family, a mindset which is best exemplified by his choice to send both his sons, Matthew Armstrong ‘16 and Michael Armstrong ‘17, to the Hill. However, he is not without suggestions for improving Belmont Hill, as his least favorite part about Belmont Hill is that the school’s pace and academic rigor can at times make it hard to ensure that all the students are happy. “We don’t really take the time to stop and take stock of things very often here. It’s a pretty purposeful and busy place, and there’s not a lot of time that we take out of our busy lives for kids and say, ‘how are you doing?’

This fall, Mr. Armstrong will embark on a new chapter in his life, a chapter that will present both new opportunities and challenges. One of the things about Fessenden Mr. Armstrong is most looking forward to is a general change of scenery from Belmont Hill, where he has worked for so long. Mr. Armstrong remarks, “Even though I have had different roles at the school, it’s the same school, and so taking on something new is exciting.” Perhaps Mr. Armstrong’s biggest challenge will be the new complexities of Fessenden that he has not dealt with at Belmont Hill, such as more students, a wider range of ages (K-9), and the important responsibilities that come with being the head of a school. That said, I can’t think of anyone better suited for the job than Mr. Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong has left a distinct legacy on our school, and he will be dearly missed.


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