Principal LaBreck reflects on middle school past and future


by Jamie Chase Galvin

July will mark the start of Christopher LaBreck’s third year as principal of Chocksett Middle School. LaBreck’s background in education began at a young age. Both his parents are teachers. He attended Assumption College in Worcester where he majored in Social and Rehabilitative Services with a concentration in education, then earned a Masters of Education in Special Education. He is licensed by the state as a principal for Pre-K to 12.

Reflecting back over the past two years, LaBreck feels a sense of pride in what has been accomplished, while looking ahead to the continued growth and forward movement of the Chocksett community. LaBreck has brought considerable experience in addition to his educational background to his position. He spent years in various educational capacities, including as a private alternative school teacher in Springfield, and as a special education teacher at Sullivan Middle School in Worcester. He served as Special Education Team Chair for Worcester Public Schools and Assistant Principal at King Phillip Regional High School in Wrentham. Prior to assuming his position at Chocksett, he served as Assistant Principal and then Associate Principal at West Boylston Middle High School.

During his tenure as principal of Chocksett Middle School, LaBreck has enjoyed many achievements, but feels one of his proudest endeavors has been tackling some student needs that have been historically underserved. “I’m really proud that we’ve begun addressing the social-emotional needs of our students, both at Chocksett and across the district,” he says. “With the support of [Director of Pupil Personnel] Cathy Knowles and Central Office, we’ve added a half-time school counselor who is teaching lessons around social and emotional development in grades six to eight.”

LaBreck feels it’s the continued hard work of the Chocksett staff that is at the forefront of moving the school forward and crossing items off the to-do list. “I’m proud of how the staff here has taken an active role in moving the school forward, giving their time to work on meeting our school improvement goals and already setting new goals for next year. It’s a pleasure to work with professionals who care so much about what they do every day,” he says.

LaBreck is excited not only by what he and his staff have already accomplished, but by his future plans for the school as well. Next on the agenda is the implementation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) for the school community.

“PBIS is a philosophy that shifts focus from what students shouldn’t be doing, which means rules, to what they should be doing, meaning expectations. We establish expectations across the school and in classrooms with as much consistency as possible, and then take the time to teach kids what we expect. The philosophy also recognizes those kids who are meeting expectations in small, but meaningful ways,” he explains.

Adding high-speed wireless Internet to the school building is another future goal LaBreck hopes to tackle. “We’re very excited about the possibility of adding high-quality wireless internet throughout the building,” he enthuses. “That will impact how students learn, by giving them immediate access to unlimited information. It will help us to engage students in their learning and personalize their learning.”

LaBreck acknowledges that holding the reins at the middle school is both challenging and rewarding. With about 400 children to uplift and educate, LaBreck takes his past and future accomplishments very seriously. “We have around 400 students and they all have different needs— academically, emotionally, and socially. Finding the right balance between challenging them academically, pushing them socially, and supporting them emotionally, especially at this age, is our challenge,” he says. “We have great students who do wonderful work and, for the most part, they’re really good to each other. Seeing them as individuals who are learning and growing, recognizing they’ll make mistakes, and helping them to learn from their mistakes, is the most rewarding part of the job, but it’s also the most challenging part.”

It’s those very students that push LaBreck and the hardworking staff at Chocksett Middle School to strive toward their future goals. “Being able to watch students work hard at something, make mistakes, correct the mistakes and get it right—in both academic and extra-curricular activities—is amazing. When our students come in as fifth graders, they are kids. They grow and change so much during their time here. Our goal is to make sure that when they leave here after eighth grade, they have a level of independence and confidence, as well as the academic and social skills, : they’ll need to be successful in high school and beyond. Seeing that happen, and being a small part of it, that’s extremely rewarding.”

LaBreck is grateful for the support of those around him, recognizing that it takes a village to run a successful and forward thinking school community. “I am so grateful for the support of the community. Parents have been welcoming and helpful. The various town departments, the DPW, police and fire departments, Sterling Recreation, town office personnel, and the Sterling Municipal Light Department, are always willing to help in any way they can,” he says. “The way everyone in town is willing to work together and help each other is very reassuring. It helps us to succeed.”

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