New Riverdale principal outlines keys to success

Published 1:38 pm Saturday, October 3, 2015

Riverdale Elementary Principal Will Melbye always wanted to play a positive role in the lives of children, but the path he took wasn’t the one that he expected. The 36-year-old Minnesotan attended Mayville State University in North Dakota with the hopes of one day becoming an athletic director, but instead found joy in teaching social studies in Westmoreland, Virginia.

“I just wanted to pass along the knowledge that I was taught to the next generation and to use my life experiences for the next group of kids so that they don’t make the same mistakes that I did,” Melbye said.

In 2005, Melbye and his wife, Susan, whom he met on the first day of new teacher training at Westmoreland, moved to Arizona so that they could get their master’s degrees in administrative supervision from Arizona State University’s Tempe campus. Soon thereafter, the couple returned to the commonwealth to begin jobs as a social studies and algebra teacher, respectively, at Southampton High School.

After five years of teaching and coaching basketball at the high school level, Melbye accepted an offer to become assistant principal at Riverdale Elementary; his wife was promoted to assistant principal at the middle school in 2011.

“Coaching just became a way to be connected to the school,” Melbye said. “But the way things have kind of worked out with me understanding curriculum and instruction better, I took the opportunity that presented itself. Being assistant principal at Riverdale was the first real opportunity I was given at the administration level, so I took two years and learned a lot from [former principal] Ms. Debra Hicks, who was real influential.”

When Hicks took a job in Southampton’s central offices, Melbye was once again promoted. Now, instead of teaching kids how to run the pick-and-roll offense, Principal Melbye has immersed himself in a much more challenging, yet more rewarding position.

“When I first started here, everyone asked me if I was going to miss basketball,” Melbye said. “[I was so busy], I didn’t even have time to think about it.”

With more than 500 students and nearly 50 teachers roaming the halls at Riverdale, getting to know everyone was quite the challenge. That’s why he’s made it a top priority to make himself visible instead of the principal that nobody wants to talk to.

“Righting the ship to make sure that we become accredited this year is our No. 1 priority, but to go with that, you have to be successful in creating last relationships with your staff, your students and your community,” he said. “Something that’s been a focal point for me has been creating and establishing solid relationship and being visible so that kids and parents know who I am and who are teachers are so that it’s more than just a name.”

“Being a part of the community is something that is important to me,” Melbye continued. “Being in the public eye is one part of the job, and it’s very important that the kids get to see you in a different light. Parents don’t always make it into the schools, either, so seeing them in a social setting is a good thing. If I can make that connection with them, it’s going to carry over into the building and make the building a better place because they feel more comfortable.”

So, when you see Melbye with his daughters Natasha, Isabelle and Madelynn at the park or grocery store, at Southampton’s next home football game or peeking into the classrooms at Riverdale, he hopes that you approach him.

“I don’t want to be that figure that you see and say that you don’t want to deal with that person. I want to ask kids about football, cheer, volleyball and softball, or whatever activity that kid is doing, and I can make that connection,” he said. “I’m happy to be here, I’m excited to be here and I’m looking forward to seeing how all of our kids are going to grow.”