Exclusive Interview with New Saint Paul’s Principal, Joe Dickens

Mr. Joe Dickens enters the first year in his new position as principal of Saint Paul’s School, and The Paper Wolf got the pleasure of interviewing Principal Dickens about his journey to principal and what it is like to be the head of the school.

QUESTION: “Where did you teach before you came to Saint Paul’s School?” 

RESPONSE: “I was raised on the south shore and attended Holy Cross for high school education. Once obtaining a master’s degree, I taught as an alumnus of Holy Cross for seven years.”

QUESTION: “Why did you move to the Northshore?”

RESPONSE: “Once my wife and I got married, we saw our future family on the Northshore.”

QUESTION: “How many years have you worked at Saint Paul’s?”

RESPONSE: “I have been teaching at Saint Paul’s for 19 years.”

QUESTION: “What do you teach at Saint Paul’s?”

RESPONSE: “I have taught English II. Honors for sophomores in all of my 19 years at Saint Paul’s.”

QUESTION: “Why do you teach only Sophomores and not seniors or pre-freshman?”

RESPONSE: “I feel like I still understand them. The weirdness of being caught in the middle, dating, and trying to become a young man, as a teacher, I feel closer to them than any other grade.”

QUESTION: “In what year did you first become an administrator at Saint Paul’s?”

RESPONSE: “Ten years ago, I first became an administrator and held the position as assistant principal while also being the offensive line Coach, powerlifting coach, and track coach for a brief time.”

QUESTION: “Have you always wanted to be a principal?”

RESPONSE: “I have always wanted to be a principal since I obtained my master’s in educational leadership, which was before you were alive.” 

QUESTION: “Why did you want to be a principal?” 

RESPONSE: “I wanted to build a leadership team in education, and I wanted to recruit first-class teachers and students.”

QUESTION: “What are the biggest challenges of this new position?”

RESPONSE: “Coach Pierre and I have planned the summer well so that the school year will go smoothly, and so far it has worked, but it is early. I know we will have trials, and I am going in with eyes open. Mr. Watkins has groomed me for this position for a while.” 

QUESTION: “What do you like most about working at Saint Paul’s?”

RESPONSE: “I love that every decision is ‘what is best for the students?’ And I love how the student-teacher relations are high.” 

QUESTION: “How has Saint Paul’s changed since you arrived?”

RESPONSE: “The core has not changed, and that’s in part due to Brother. Ray, Brother. Ken, and Mr. Watkins, but the curriculum has expanded with programs like PLTW, computer science, engineering, and the facility upgrades, of course, and that is all thanks to Brother Ray and Mr. Watkins’s vision.”

QUESTION: “What is one thing you want to change about Saint Paul’s under your administration?”

RESPONSE: “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I don’t want to change this special place because I am proud of Saint Paul’s. This place is unique and special and that will never change.”

QUESTION: “What is the biggest lesson you have learned since working at Saint Paul’s?”

RESPONSE: “Patience and seeing things through the eyes of students and parents.” 

QUESTION: “Who inspires you?”

RESPONSE: “The students inspire me because they let me in, which is hard to do.”

QUESTION: “What are some activities you and your family like to do together?”

RESPONSE: “Playing tennis or ping pong with my daughter, who does beat me from time to time, or barbecuing a steak at medium rare.” 

QUESTION: “Do you sing any songs in the shower?”

RESPONSE:  “Of course! I listen and sing to anything from Mozart to Metallica to The Doors to the Beastie Boys. I listen anywhere from the 1950s to 2022, and that’s all thanks to my students who teach me to appreciate all music.” 

QUESTION: “What is your most embarrassing moment in a classroom at Saint Paul’s?”

RESPONSE: “I try to inject about 2-3 minutes of humor into my class. One day Coach Sears came onto the announcements and asked if the student who drives a scooter could move it. Well, I went on a long rant about how embarrassing it is to drive a scooter and how someone could even like driving that. And then at the end of my rant, a student raised his hand and asked if he could go and move his scooter; that’s the most I have ever been embarrassed in a class.”

QUESTION: “Who would play you in the movie of your life?”

RESPONSE: “Marlon Brando because he is ten times cooler!”

QUESTION: “What’s the worst thing you did growing up?”

RESPONSE: “When I attended Holy Cross as a student, I had no filter with the teacher or classmates, but the brothers and teachers helped me get over that.”

QUESTION: “What do you do in your free time?”

RESPONSE: “I like to decompress by cutting the grass, riding my bike, working out, and watching the Saints.”

QUESTION: “What is your favorite ice cream flavor?”

RESPONSE: “Pistachio because it is creamy and nutty.”

QUESTION: “Who is your favorite sports figure?”

RESPONSE: “Rodger Staubach, who played for the Dallas Cowboys in the ’70s, because he put faith and family first and because he served in the Navy.”

QUESTION: “Is there anything else you would like your student body to know?”

RESPONSE: “It seems like we are pitted, but everything we do is to help you grow up. We try to make all of you as polished and elegant as possible. We try to give you the confidence of a 30-year-old, and we do everything we can in the best interest of the students.” 

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