VINALHAVEN — The Vinalhaven School has a new principal in place for the upcoming school year with a remarkable bevy of accomplishments, highlighted by a Grammy Award in 2012.
Dr. Monte Selby has been approved as the newest principal at the K-12 island school.
Selby was raised in a small Oklahoma town of similar size to Vinalhaven, and where his father held a variety of positions including superintendent and basketball coach, while his mother was a music teacher and performed at countless small town events.
“I've always loved small towns and now I'm back,” said Selby, about his move to Vinalhaven.
Selby has worked as an educational trainer and consultant, has keynoted numerous national and international conferences, and written music with nearly 36,000 K-12 grade students, according to his online biography.
He co-authored eight books and composed more than 100 published songs, including “Check Your Attitude”, which landed on the 2012 Grammy Award winning Best Children’s Album.
“Over 1,000 performances, workshops and leadership presentations have left audiences laughing, singing, and applauding across North America, Europe and Asia,” his biography states.
After writing his first song at the age of 10, Selby earned a vocal scholarship to attend Kansas State University where he studied to be a music and math teacher and earned his bachelor’s degree. He later earned a master’s degree, as well.
With an interest in writing about children, Selby created lyrics and music to entertain his fellow teachers and parents while observing children’s behavior, conversations and reactions.
He started by writing dozens of educational songs for fun as a middle school principal, which, according to his biography, changed his career.
“He was soon asked to share those songs at other schools, or provide the kick-off session at conferences,” the biography states. “He connected the songs to important education topics, and soon he had more requests for presentations that he could accept.”
He moved with his brother and his music publisher to Nashville, Tennessee which provided the Selby brothers with numerous opportunities to collaborate with experienced writers and musicians in professional studios.
With a yearning for education, he earned his doctorate degree in school leadership and accepted a professor position at Emporia State University.
Selby began experimenting with songwriting as a teaching tool, his biography noted, and found students of all ages could use songwriting to summarize their learning, gain insight into effective writing and build stronger learning communities through collaborative work.
“The two careers [were] connected, because I wrote songs for students (curriculum), about students (humor for teachers), and with students (as an artist in residence),” Selby said, Aug. 29, in an email.
He has received awards as a musician, teacher, principal and professor over three decades.
Selby was invited, in 2015, to serve as a global mentor at the Stamford American International School in Singapore alongside three Nobel Prize winners and three Olympic medalists.
“Over the years my songs have ended up being used world-wide; one song has been recorded in more than 10 languages, and some have ended up on TV or commercials,” said Selby.
As with just about any musician, music has provided Selby the opportunity to experience a multitude of cultures in different parts of the world
“Using music as an avenue to work with children and educators has taken me to many parts of the world,” said Selby, including England, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Singapore and Canada. He lived for a short time in Tennessee and spent most of his career in Kansas before a stint in Colorado. From Colorado he and his family moved five years ago to Cumberland.
Selby’s musical talents have also assisted his wife, Michelle, and her work as a therapist working with children, adults, and families.
“Her knowledge of how to help children has influenced my career,” he said. “I've been able to use songwriting to help students in residential treatment or juvenile detention centers. And about 40,000 other students in schools who just enjoy seeing their words and ideas become a song.”
Despite the continuous obstacles posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in his first few weeks as principal of Vinalhaven, Selby is enjoying his time on the island and is eager for the upcoming school year.
“Michelle and I are absolutely loving the people and landscape of Vinalhaven,” he said. “The staff at Vinalhaven School has been amazingly engaged with preparing (since early July) to make this a great year. COVID-19 has presented many challenges that this staff has turned into many silver linings. I look forward to a great year ahead.”