WARREN, NJ - At its May 8 meeting, the Warren Township Board of Education approved George J. Villar as Warren Middle School’s next principal. Villar, currently principal of Central Middle School in Gillette, will begin his new position in Warren on or about July 1, 2017, succeeding veteran principal Robert Comba who is retiring after more than two decades with Warren Township Schools.
“Middle school is a time of wonder and curiosity. Young people start 6th grade with one foot still in elementary school and end in 8th grade as young adults,” says Villar. “In three years, students learn to define themselves and to develop a deeper understanding of identity and beliefs. Middle school offers opportunities to learn and grow that are fun and exciting. What I like best about the middle school environment is the space students have to explore new ideas carefully and with understanding.”
As a principal in Long Hill -- one of the four districts to send students to Watchung Hills Regional High School -- Villar met frequently with Comba and principals of the other sending districts.
“From my first [meeting] at Warren Middle School, I could easily understand the culture and tone of the building,” Villar says. “From that time and each time after, when I have been at WMS, I found students were friendly and eager to say hello, staff engaged in all manner of instruction while the day moved along with a strong educational purpose. Upon learning of Mr. Comba’s retirement, it was not hard to make up my mind that I very much wanted to follow in the legacy of Mr. Comba and to be part of a district committed to providing its young people with great experiences.”
“Throughout the interview process, Mr. Villar has been the consummate professional, projecting a quiet and calm confidence that comes from his years of experience as a building administrator,” says superintendent Matthew Mingle.
Before joining Central Middle School in 2010, Villar served for one year as principal of Valley Middle School in Oakland, New Jersey and as assistant principal of Ridge High School in Bernards Township from 2003 to 2008. For 8 years prior, he taught social studies at both the middle school and high school level in Bernards Township.
“I have a great interest in the history and culture of the second half of 20th century America and how we have evolved into the people we are today,” Villar says, when asked about a favorite moment in history. “From the end of the second World War to the present, we have seen great changes in our culture through music, sports, technology, literature and entertainment. These have dramatically shaped our society and identity as a nation.”
Villar says his teaching philosophy is “that everything is more interesting when taught as a story and we have something we can take away from every story.”
Great teaching is about creating great experiences that place students in the center of the instructional action and allowing them choice and understanding. Empowering the students to be part of the story is essential to rich educational experience,” he says.
Mingle adds, “Mr. Villar lives and breathes a whole child approach to education. He cares about his students and understands the unique challenges of the middle school years. His demeanor is one of compassion and genuine concern. His expectations will be high yet his role is that of teacher at all times so that students who are struggling learn about perseverance, grit, and determination while working through the details of whatever brought them into a conversation with him.”
As for his philosophy as an administrator, Villar vows to “always work with the staff to ensure that we are providing best practices to maximize student potential.”
“It is my belief that there are many ways to solve problems and address needs,” he adds. “What works well for one person in one circumstance is not necessarily going to work in another. Good listening and a genuine desire to understand problems are the best tools toward building consensus and finding meaningful solutions to problems.”
The Garden State native was born and raised in Elizabeth where his family lived in a two-family home alongside his paternal grandparents. Later, after completing their undergraduate degrees, Villar and his wife settled in Scotch Plains in 1997. “For me, it is hard to imagine any place other than New Jersey to live and raise my children,” he says.
Villar received a master’s degree in Educational Administration and Supervision from Rutgers University in 2000 and a Bachelor of Arts in History and Teacher Education from Kean University in 1994.
“History was my first passion,” he says. “When I considered the career options for a degree in history, I realized that one of the interests I had in the subject was the ability to share the story of people and events and how they have shaped our lives.”
It is that interest in storytelling that makes Villar eager to meet the staff and students of Warren Middle School and “to learn their stories.”
‘Every institution is essentially a composite of all the people who belong to it,” he says. “Being among them and learning from them is the first step toward representing them.”