Christian Talbot, currently interim president for Regis High School in New York, will begin serving as president of the Middle States Association Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools on July 1.
In this short Q & A, Talbot discusses the moment he knew he wanted to become an educator, the power of the Middle States network (and the power of art) and what’s on his summer playlist.
Q. What inspired you to become an educator?
A.I can tell you exactly where I was when I knew I wanted to become an educator. I was a sophomore in Mr. Sabatelli’s American History class in room 408 at Regis High School. He was facilitating another electrifying discussion that had the class engaged and excited to talk about the big questions in American History, and at that moment I said to myself: “This is what I want to do. I want to create experiences like this for students.”
Q. What do you see as Middle States’ greatest advantages?
A. To begin, our staff. Our entire team brings passion, commitment, and experience to our partnership with our member schools. The work of our associate vice presidents is especially important in helping schools get the most out of the accreditation process. When I was a first-time head of school, I worked closely with our accreditation lead and we were so grateful that we could rely on the AVPs to guide us, encourage us, and ultimately make us better than when we started.
Another of MSA’s great advantages is the trust we have earned from being the gold standard for accreditation for 135 years. I am struck by how important it is to the MSA team and the Commissioners that we continue to earn that trust by ensuring the accreditation process meets the needs of our diverse membership and remains meaningful and relevant in today’s educational environment.
Finally, the breadth and depth of our membership is powerful. Just as they say that the smartest person in the room is the room itself, I believe that the greatest school in the MSA network is the network itself.
Q. How would you describe your leadership style?
A. I try to lead by finding the intersection of mission and strengths. On every team I’ve been on, our members’ differences were superpowers when we took the time to harmonize them in service of a shared mission. I love to have diverse perspectives, experiences, and strengths at the table.
Q. What is one thing that people may be surprised to learn about you?
A. One of my undergraduate majors was Art History and I wrote a thesis on the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. I’m a huge believer in the power of art to change the way we see the world and to inspire us to act in new ways.
On a slightly more random note, some people may be surprised to learn that I’ve gone skydiving. It was both the most terrifying and exhilarating experience of my life.
Q. What’s on your summer reading list/playlist?
A. This summer I hope to read several exciting nonfiction books: Imaginable by Jane McGonigal; The New Megatrends, by Marian Salzman; Build, by Tony Fadell; iGen, by Jean Twenge; Sludge, by Cass Sunstein; and Dealing with Darwin, by Geoffrey Moore.
Although I’m a former English teacher, I don’t read as much fiction as I would like. That said, I’m excited to read Sea of Tranquility, by Emily St. John Mandel; Ministry for the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson; and These Ghosts Are Family, by Maisy Card.
My summer playlist is likely to be an extension of my spring playlist. I’ve been listening to a lot of Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, the soundtrack to American Utopia, and occasionally the “Happy Hits” playlist on Apple Music.