Although Steve Chartier doesn’t focus on titles, he’s recently taken on a new one – interim director at West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics.
In August, the school’s previous director, Cathy Cantu, left after accepting the position as principal of Oakridge Upper Elementary School.
School Board President Marcia Rappleye said they were looking for someone who understood the school’s art-immersed curriculum and who could address test scores. Rappleye said Chartier’s notion and concept of integrating arts made him a strong candidate.
Chartier has students call him by his first name as a way to break down barriers with students and to connect with them on a different level.
During the past 24 years, Chartier has held roles in early childhood education and upper elementary as a lead teacher, staff developer and assistant principal.
Chartier, 47, considers himself a teacher first.
Rappleye said they’re fortunate to have Chartier at WMAAA given his experience and creativity.
Chartier grew up on the east side of Michigan before moving to New York, where he was interested in teaching being done there that was curriculum based on students’ interests, Chartier said.
A Grand Haven resident, Chartier said he gravitates to arts and music. A self-describe “avid collector” of vinyl LPs, Chartier‘s collection spans a variety of genres and artists – Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole to name a few.
Chartier said WMAAA is important because of its focus on the arts.
Looking ahead, Chartier has plans for his own future as well as for the school.
When Chartier is finished being a principal, he plans on getting a doctoral degree in curriculum so he can teach methods courses. Chartier said he believes educators need to be better prepared before going into classrooms.
Chartier’s plans for West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics include working with the Board of Education to consider changing the grade level that students can begin focusing on an elective art such as drama, music, visual arts or dance.
Currently, students can commit to a specific elective to study in fifth grade. Chartier said some children are ready by third or fourth grade.
“We’re trying to set them up for a lifetime of passion in the arts,” he said.
Chartier would also like to help students make connections with individuals in cities such as Chicago and New York who are in careers students might be interested in pursuing. He would also like to add an orchestra program since the school already offers band and choir.
Chartier noted that he wants to protect the arts.
“I cannot wait to see what the future brings for the building,” he said.