“Preparing them to be 21st century learners”: RV welcomes new Assistant Principal of Instructional Technology and Innovation

Meet Mr. Simonet, RV’s newest administrator and biggest fan


Meadow Drapala

Mr. Simonet comes from Hainesport Middle School, where he was prinicpal.

Alexis Chester, Managing Editor

You see them in every classroom: a sea of red-backed Macbooks in front of students, clicking away at their keyboards.  A teacher paces in front of a SmartBoard or television, only rarely electing to use the whiteboards. While students and teachers alike are familiar with using technology, there is a much greater undertaking behind the scenes of tech at RV.

No one knows this better than Thomas Simonet, the new Assistant Principal of Instructional Technology and Innovation at Rancocas Valley.  

As the Assistant Principal of Instructional Technology and Innovation, Mr. Simonet will oversee the Media Center. (Meadow Drapala)

Previously a sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade Language Arts teacher, an instructional coach for students and teachers and most recently the principal at Hainesport Middle School, Simonet is a man who wears many hats and is excited to take on a new challenge. One aspect of that challenge is holding a position with which many students aren’t familiar — there is not a lot of precedent.

“My position is actually a newer position,” Simonet explained. “I took over for Mr. Hatziandreou… I work with the tech department to kind of streamline our tech and services for our students and staff and look to infuse new technologies into the school.”  

Students will likely notice the impact of his position without realizing it originates from his work.  

“We’re looking to use technology to allow our students to be a little more innovative and our teachers to innovate with technology, for our students to be more open to the concepts of embracing technology, not just for educational purposes, but for the purposes of advancing their careers once they are out of high school,” he said. “We’re looking to prepare them to be 21st century learners.”

Although this may seem to be a daunting task, Simonet has no fear in his new job.  

“I like new challenges, and this is specifically a very big challenge. I wanted to take on [something new] that would challenge me personally and professionally as well,” he said.

Some of the challenges Simonet noted were the differences in dynamic between his previous school and RV.  The shift from working with less than 600 kindergarten and middle schoolers to over 2,000 high schoolers will surely be a major change.  

However, it’s a change that Simonet is ready to make. RV has appealed to Simonet for years. As principal at Hainesport Middle School, a sending district to RV, he worked extensively with RV staff as well as students who later came to the high school.

“I like to listen to my students,” Mr. Simonet said. “I like to focus on their strengths and continue to build upon their strengths. I like them to experience things they’ve never experienced before.” (Meadow Drapala)

“For a number of years now I’ve wanted to become a member of the RV family, because I’ve heard a lot of wonderful things,” said Simonet.  “I really like the climate and culture they’re creating here.”

Because of his interest in so many of RV’s current initiatives, Simonet is not looking to implement any major changes at the moment.

According to Simonet, “Right now [he’s] just looking to learn as much as [he] can about existing policies and practices… [and] looking for guidance from students and staff.”

In fact, much of Simonet’s education style revolves around his students.  

“I like to listen to my students,” he said, smiling.  “I like to focus on their strengths and continue to build upon them.  I like them to experience things they’ve never experienced before.  I want them to know it’s okay to try new things and fail because that’s how you learn — learning from those mistakes and continuing to move forward.”

His interest in the students may originate from his own life.  Simonet is father of two teens, one of whom is a recent RV graduate.  

In his own teenage years,  Simonet was “tiny” (as he described himself laughingly), an athlete and a social butterfly.  He originally considered going into the military or law enforcement and never expected to be an educator. His experiences, though, have made him glad he changed his mind.

When speaking of his previous role at Hainesport Middle, Simonet beamed with pride as he described what he valued most from the experience: “the relationships [he] was able to build the children and staff there— relationships that will last a lifetime.” By working at RV, Simonet will have a chance to see the students whom he taught in their formative years become high schoolers and adults. He is excited to see them grow.  

“I’m one of those people who likes to just listen,” Mr. Simonet said. (Ella Ruminksi)

Beyond the classroom, Simonet has a variety of interests that shape him. Being a Parrot Head (a Jimmy Buffett fan), his favorite song is “Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes” because “everyone loves Jimmy Buffett!” When he’s not coaching, Simonet cultivates his Clash of Clans prowess (despite his son’s protests) and argues passionately against the existence of Central Jersey (“There’s North Jersey and South Jersey, no central Jersey”).

Between a rewind button and pause button on his life, Simonet would prefer the pause.

“I’m one of those people who likes to just listen,” he said pensively.  “A pause button would give me time to reflect.”

Most importantly, Simonet is ecstatic to be a part of the RV community. When asked what his own personal hashtag would be, he enthusiastically declared, “#Let’sGoRedDevils!”