When Taras Petryshyn started as an assistant principal with Clifton Public Schools this past August, it was the culmination of years of hard work for the district that began with his first job as janitor there 18 years ago.
For the Ukrainian immigrant, who came to the United States as a teenager, it was his perseverance through continued education that helped him achieve the American Dream.
He graduated from Clifton High School in 2000, and a year later he was cleaning the district’s administration building by night and attending classes at Bergen Community College by day. After BCC, he went on to get a degree from William Paterson University in 2006 and then worked as a teacher while pursuing his Master of Education in Educational Leadership at Montclair State, attaining the degree in 2014.
Petryshyn’s story attracted local and national media attention after his appointment to assistant principal. He was profiled on NJ.com, CBSN New York, ABC7 New York and CNN. While the attention was “not my idea,” he acknowledges that he is happy to inspire others. “I’m hoping it does real things for someone. Maybe it changes someone’s mind, and if it does that for one person, that’s great.”
Petryshyn says that Montclair State’s faculty – many who are education professionals – made the difference for him.
“My professors were all deeply knowledgeable, experienced educators. Many were superintendents, principals and top administrators, who shared their real-life situations for us to learn from,” he says. “I think the program is just phenomenal. Being able to learn from those who are working in the field was the cherry on top of the cake.”
In his new job as assistant principal, Petryshyn says the days can be hard and long and that the students in School 14 face many challenges, but the effort is well worth it. “I enjoy my time with the kids,” Petryshyn says. “You leave and you are happy. That’s what matters to me.”
- Written by Mary Barr Mann for the Fall/Winter 2019 Montclair magazine