The Cartwheeling Principal: Daniel Bauer
One would be hard pressed to find a more improbable gymnast than Marblehead High School principal Daniel Bauer. Yet he has performed cartwheels at countless school events since taking on the role in 2016, and done so with the same perfect balance of enthusiasm and attentiveness that has enabled him to navigate what has proven to be a particularly unpredictable time in the field of education.
Serving as the principal of a small-town high school is a challenging position even in the best of times, often subject to intense scrutiny. Yet Bauer is well-known for his popularity both within the school and in the broader Marblehead community. Being respected and well liked by faculty, students, and parents is no easy achievement, and he attributes his success, at least in part, to his efforts to stay true to himself and take pleasure in his work. “You need to find a job you enjoy,” he says. “If you don’t enjoy your work, you need to find something new.” Every student is familiar with Bauer’s constant presence before and after school, greeting students with a smile or checking in for a quick update. He can often be found walking the halls, stopping by classrooms to make sure everything is as it should be. He feels that this is a vital aspect of his job, enabling him to stay connected to the school community. Students often remark on the ways in which Bauer’s sanguine personality have had a positive impact on the school’s environment.
Bauer’s approach to his job was, in many ways, formed during his years growing up in the Midwest. Bauer is one of three children, and his dad served as a police officer while his mom worked in a supermarket. During his childhood in St. Louis, Missouri, he learned to greet strangers with a “Hi! How are you?,”–a warm and friendly approach he has carried to this day. Moving to the East Coast was something of a culture shock at first, Bauer notes, explaining that there is sometimes a certain edge to interactions here that is less common in the Midwest. While he has adapted and come to love his new home, Bauer still holds on to many of the lessons learned in his formative years.
In those early days, Bauer did not envision himself becoming a high school principal. Though he enjoyed school immensely, he spent much of his time playing football–his skill eventually landed him a position on the football team at the University of Pennsylvania. He majored in sociology and met his future wife, a nursing major, with whom he celebrated 30 years of marriage just this year. They have two children, a son who graduated from Northeastern University several years ago, and a daughter, a rising senior at Ithaca College.
Bauer once saw a statistic claiming that the average person experiences seven major life changes, and he notes that he has been through quite a few of these already. Several of his career stops along the way have involved coaching football. He was a coach for a time at Tufts University, where he also earned his Masters degree in education, and then taught United States history at Masconomet High School. Bauer describes one of his least favorite career experiences, a year spent as an insurance salesman, as the result of “a series of unfortunate events” and an experience he was very happy to never repeat again. Though Bauer at one time aspired to be the head coach for a college football team, he recognized that the travel and time commitment involved in such a position would not be conducive to family life. He and his wife decided to move to Beverly, where he coached football and gained experience as an assistant principal. He still lives in Beverly to this day. “I am blessed with a beautiful family, and to live in a great community and work in a great community.” Bauer reiterated several times how fortunate he feels to have led his life, and underscored this by noting that he had no real regrets.
Throughout his career, Bauer has noticed clear connections between coaching and teaching, noting that “coaching and teaching are really one in the same,” because both positions involve offering guidance and inspiration. Much the same can be said about Bauer’s role as a principal. His philosophy, he says, is always to be guided by kindness and compassion. He explains that, when dealing with students or staff or community members, he “doesn’t need to agree, but needs to listen.” The one most important piece of his job is to ensure that every student leaving the doors of Marblehead High School is prepared to enter the rapidly changing world that will greet them, whether they choose to pursue military service, enter the workforce, enroll in college, or take any other of the many other paths available. It is important to push students to their fullest potential, Bauer says, and a key component of that goal is ensuring that they feel heard, valued, and safe every day they spend in school. “You need to find a balance in all things,” Bauer says, summarizing his approach to his role.
Since 2016, when he took on the job as principal, Bauer has guided Marblehead High School and the community through some difficult, unprecedented times, most notably the Covid pandemic, which struck in March of 2020. Bauer recalls feeling some uncertainty about managing such a catastrophe, but says that “with any type of crisis there’s always an opportunity to improve.” Throughout the past few Covid-tinged years, he learned just how powerful a human touch can be and gained a “greater appreciation for personal relationships and contacts.” Since 2020, he has had to ensure that teachers, who are dealing with their own personal experiences, are able to teach while also being given the necessary time to support their families. Several times during the conversation, Bauer mentions how important it is to “be careful with judgments,” noting that “you never know where people are in their lives.” He held true to this philosophy during the complicated mask-optional stage of the pandemic, working tirelessly to ensure that no students or staff members felt ostracized or judged as a result of their own personal decisions.
Bauer does not have a great deal of free time, given that he can almost always be found at Marblehead High School, greeting students, attending events, and otherwise serving as a constant and calming presence. Outside of work he enjoys “a simple life,” spending time with family and attending the occasional sporting event. Bauer is also working toward a doctorate in education, which he began prior to Covid. Grateful to have found his calling in school administration, Bauer is motivated by the desire to “make a difference and make the world a better place, starting with the next generation.”