By Katherine Long | Editor
Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Canfield says she has loved school from the moment she set foot in her kindergarten classroom at the age of four. That love led to a career in education that has spanned 45 years.
Canfield’s journey as an educator will come to a close June 29 as she retires from her position in the diocese’s Catholic Schools Office. Her career, which has taken her from classroom teacher to principal to assistant superintendent, has been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream: “For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a teacher,” Canfield recalled.
As a Future Teacher of America alum and a SUNY Potsdam grad, Canfield landed her first teaching job at Most Holy Rosary School in Syracuse, working part-time with students who needed additional support in reading or math. The next year, she was hired to teach fourth, fifth, and sixth grade social studies at the school full time. She served at MHR, doing “just about everything” in grades 4 to 6, for a total of 21 years.
Canfield served for two years as principal of St. Peter’s and Transfiguration elementary schools in Rome. The pastors, staff, students, and families were “super,” she said, and very supportive. She then returned to Syracuse, serving as principal of St. Patrick’s School for 9 years until its closing in 2006.
She was to teach at Holy Family School until then-superintendent Michael Colabufo recruited her to the Schools Office to serve as data director. In that role, Canfield collected schools’ data from state assessments and presented it to principals, providing “interpretation of the data and helping the schools decide what they could do to help the education of the students,” she explained.
Canfield sees this work as perhaps her most important contribution during her time in education. “I know that testing is just one day in the life of the student. But we’re not looking at individual student data; we’re looking at the class as a whole and finding out where the loopholes might be in instruction or in the textbook we’re using,” she said. The influence of that data on curricula has led to positive changes in education to prepare students for their futures and “changing a mindset,” she said.
As assistant superintendent, a position she has held since 2010, Canfield continued to work with schools on interpreting data and making curriculum decisions. At the core of her work, “I feel I’m here to help the principals,” she said. That is fitting for an educator who cites every principal and superintendent she has worked under as her role models.
Canfield has seen many changes in students and education over the years — the ever-quicker pace of life, the demands on families’ time, the onslaught of information — but one thing remains the same: there is something special about Catholic schools.
“The atmosphere is different when you walk into a Catholic school,” she said. Teachers and students can “talk about God and depend on Him even more,” people enjoy being there, and there is a certain closeness that develops, she noted. “I think you feel it as soon as you walk in the building.”