By Josh LaBella
Robert Bohan’s career guiding students sprouted from a love from coaching sports.
Bohan, the principal of Bailey Middle School, started coaching as community service for a religion class he was taking at Notre Dame High School. He said it was during his time coaching at St. Lawrence School, as well as for the West Haven Fundamental Basketball League, that he realized his love for helping young people.
“I went back to St. Lawrence School where I had gone from grade one to grade eight,” said Bohan. “I did some baseball coaching. I did some basketball coaching. That really hooked me on it. I loved working with kids. I loved the whole process.”
When Bohan started college, he was a communications major at the University of New Haven. He continued coaching at St. Lawrence and soon decided to switch to studying education at Southern Connecticut State University.
“It was about the coaching,” said Bohan. “My thinking was that it would open avenues to coaching.”
As a student teacher, Bohan worked in classrooms here in West Haven but also in Northford. After graduating he ended up working as a long-term substitute in Northford.
“It was a great experience. It was a full year” said Bohan. “I did everything you would do as a regular teacher except in the long-term substitute position.”
The principal said he got hired for a job teaching sixth grade at Malloy School the following summer. Bohan said he mirrors the teaching process to the coaching process; it is just a different venue.
“You’re working with kids. You’re guiding them. You’re assisting them. You are taking them on a journey,” said Bohan.
Bohan said in both situations it is critical to motivate. He said it can be more challenging to motivate a student opposed to a player. His reasoning was because in most situations the player wants to be there while a student may not.
“You’ve got to bring the content, whatever subject it is, to life for them,” said Bohan. “They’ve got to be able to connect to it. Without being able to do that, you’re never going to get to them.”
The educator spent 12 years at Malloy School – teaching sixth grade, fifth grade, fourth grade and third grade at different times. Bohan said he felt it was time to move on so he got a job as a sixth-grade math teacher at Bailey while he also worked on getting his administration certification.
“I wanted some experience on a different level,” said Bohan. “So, I came here and taught math for four years. From there I did five years working as a math coach – working around the district with different teachers, mainly behind the scenes. Then I became the assistant principal at Bailey Middle School in 2013.”
Bohan worked as the assistant principal for four years before becoming the principal. He said the job is similar in principle to being a teacher or coach but on a larger scale.
“You go from 25 kids to 900 kids,” said Bohan. “You don’t know them intimately but the responsibility on my end is huge. They’re all yours in a sense. Then, of course, you’ve got the adults (parents, teachers and staff), who you are working should-to-shoulder with.”
He said he never planned to be an administrator but thought he has something to “bring to the table.” Bohan said he took a little from each administrator he worked under.
Bohan said he greatly appreciates the relationships he has developed with students and their parents. He added that, at Bailey, the administrators, teachers and staff take a collaborative approach to guiding and helping students. He said his job would be much harder without them.
Principal Bohan said he has never regretted the path he took. He said spending his years in the classroom were invaluable to him.
“It still helps me today,” said Bohan. “It’s a process. Where you’re working with the kids and their families as an overall family approach here. I always say in my phone calls, together we are Bailey.”