Assistant Principal Chris Casler-Gonçalves – photo PROVIDED
By Katherine Long
Chris Casler-Gonçalves has joined East Syracuse’s Bishop Grimes Jr./Sr. High School as assistant principal, bringing 14 years of experience in public and private education to the position.
A Catholic school is a new experience for him, however, “I feel like God was leading me toward this place,” he said.
A native of Nutley, N.J., Casler-Gonçalves discovered his calling as a teacher during his college years at Dartmouth. While home on a break, Casler-Gonçalves’ father, a local schools superintendent, suggested he try his hand at substitute teaching. His first assignment landed him in a third-grade classroom for three weeks.
“I had no idea what I was doing welcoming 25 third-graders into a class,” he recalled. “But by the end of the day, I remember writing an email to [his now-wife] Jen: ‘This is crazy but I think I found what I want to do.’ I fell in love with it and never looked back.”
After graduating, he taught in the New Jersey public school system for four years. His wife’s law career took the couple to California, where Casler-Gonçalves’ spent nine years teaching at the San Diego French-American school. After the birth of their son, Devin, now 15 months old, the family decided to return to Central New York to be near family. Casler-Gonçalves took a position as principal of elementary schools in the Skaneateles Central School District, but ultimately decided the position “wasn’t for me. I took some time off to spend with my wife and son, and to figure out whether I wanted to go back to the classroom or continue as an administrator.” Learning about the opening at Bishop Grimes led him to think “God is leading me to not give up on leadership,” he said.
In his new position at the school, Casler-Gonçalves will focus on campus ministry and student life; longtime Assistant Principal Patrick Kinne will focus on curriculum, instruction, and the school’s work toward authorization as an International Baccalaureate® (IB) World School.
Casler-Gonçalves is already working to organize retreats for the students and is looking forward bolstering the school’s campus and peer ministry programs. He will also work with students to gather feedback on how the school might best support their total wellness — educational, physical, social, emotional — to ensure “when they’re coming to school every day, they’re safe, they’re happy, they’re healthy, they’re best prepared to learn.”
Casler-Gonçalves, a parishioner of St. Mary of the Lake in Skaneateles, is looking forward to meeting students and beginning the school year. “I feel like being here now I’m finally able to merge… my passion for what I love to do and my faith, too,” he said.