Long Island native Christine Finn (’84 B.A. in Adolescence Education in English, ’86 M.S. in Childhood Education; ’99 Advanced Certificate in School District Leadership) is the new superintendent and principal of the Shelter Island School District on eastern Long Island.
Growing up in Islip, Finn started her career in public education teaching first and fourth graders in Brentwood on the South Shore of Long Island.
“I taught a lot of kids how to read, and I was really proud of that,” Finn told The Islander, which did a profile of her. After getting her undergraduate and master’s degrees, she earned her doctorate in education from St. John’s University. Over the years she admits she’s had to learn on the job herself. Originally she had set out to be an English major in college but a summer spent working at a nursery school made her consider teaching.
“I don’t think I was a natural, but I became very good at it,” recalled Finn. “I was fortunate [that] the women I worked with showed me the tricks.”
She’s shared her experience with others following in her footsteps.
“When I see a teacher struggling,” Finn said, “I know it can be fixed—that I can help them.”
After a decade in the classroom, Finn made the shift to administration because a principal encouraged her to consider the transition. She worked her way up from a low level position in the Patchogue-Medford district to become an assistant principal, a principal, and finally an administrator in the district office. She left to become the assistant superintendent for curriculum in the Herricks School District in New Hyde Park, which has 3,000 students.
Now at Shelter Island, she oversees a system that has fewer than 300 kids but she says she welcomes the direct involvement with students and staff.
“I felt I could be myself,” Finn, 55, told the Shelter Island Reporter about why she wanted to make the move. Shelter Island’s Board of Education reportedly picked Finn over 51 other applicants for the top job.
Finn is “great for this community,” Board President Thomas Graffagnino told The Shelter Island Reporter, adding that “I think this one’s a keeper.” The district, nestled between the twin forks of Long Island, has seen seven superintendents come and go since 1986.
“This is the place I want to be,” Finn confidently told The Islander, “and I hope the teachers all feel that way, too.”