“Both my undergraduate and graduate experiences at Montclair State prepared me well for my career,” says alumnus Darren Groh’ 94, 03 MA, while reminiscing about his time at his alma mater. Groh is currently in his 16th year with the Chatham school district. He has been serving as the principal of Chatham High School for the past 14 years and previously served as assistant principal during his first two years.
“Having the opportunity to lead one of the top high schools in New Jersey is one of my greatest professional accomplishments,” he says. As a leader, Groh is continuously working with his administrative team and faculty to create the best learning environment possible for students.
Growing up, he always knew he wanted to be in the field of education. Having been born into a family of teachers and being surrounded by influential coaches, he was motivated to pursue a degree in Physical Education at Montclair State.
As an undergraduate, Groh played baseball and ice hockey during his first years at Montclair State. Having a strong interest in sports, he took on an opportunity as an ice hockey coach at Clifton High School during his sophomore year. It was his first exposure to a career in mentoring and teaching.
Groh received more hands-on experience when he worked with local elementary schools as a requirement for his major. He had the opportunity to develop lesson plans and work with students in Bradford and Nishuane elementary schools in Montclair. “Those experiences confirmed to me that teaching and making a difference was what I wanted to do for a living.”
After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in 1994, Groh went on to work as a Health and Physical Education teacher in a number of school districts including Passaic Valley, Montclair and Nutley. In addition to teaching, he also coached varsity ice hockey and baseball teams.
It wasn’t until teaching for a number of years and working with administrators in the different districts that Groh considered pursuing his master’s degree. “Building relationships with these administrators and seeing what they do, encouraged me to picture myself in that type of role.”
Beginning his graduate work after having taught and coached for a few years, enabled him to bring some of his experiences into the classroom and get involved in class discussions. Groh says that the instruction and the experiences that he had in class, prepared him well for his first administrative position. After completing his master’s degree in Administration and Supervision in 2003, he was offered a position as assistant principal at West Essex High School in North Caldwell.
Groh is appreciative for his time at Montclair State and for the professors he encountered along the way. He credits professors, Dr. Nancy Giardina and Dr. Sue Schwager for having the most positive impact on his academic career. The most important lesson they taught him? “Preparation is most important but connecting with your students and making adjustments is what creates the best learning opportunities.”
“Take your time to get to know your professors and get involved beyond the classroom,” he advises to current students. “Internships are a great way to gain real-life experience as you prepare to enter into your career.”