Introducing Ms. Messmann, our high school principal

Messmann’s plans include teaching full-length books in every ELA class.


Musfika Afroz and Gabriela Barraco

Principal Elizabeth Messmann

We might know a little bit about teachers, but many of us students don’t know much about our high school principal, Ms. Messmann. We might wonder how she became the principal of our school. It all started when she moved to Brooklyn to become an ESL teacher. Later on, she became an assistant principal at FDR High School, and then advanced to the position of principal at Newcomers.

Messmann attended Queens College, and later Stony Brook University for her bachelors and masters degrees (respectively), towards ultimately becoming a school building leader. 

Messmann also has a family of her own. She has an eight year-old son, and a husband who is from Tenerife in the Canary Islands, which are located in Spain.  Messmann is an extremely busy woman, but she likes to relax in her free time.  “I like to watch Netflix, and I like to read books,” she said.  She also likes to run and cook.

You might be thinking that she always wanted to become a principal or that it was her childhood dream, but this is not so. “I didn’t want to be a principal.  In fact, if you asked me when I was in high school, I didn’t like high school at all. It was probably why I became a teacher because in high school, I didn’t fit in and I didn’t have a lot of friends. I wanted to become a teacher because I wanted to help make sure the kids felt safe and welcomed in school.” Despite disliking high school, Messmann was a good student.  As an educator, she started learning about how schools and the school system functioned.  “I wanted to always advocate and push for my students’ voices to be heard and for their rights to be met,” she said. 

One way Messmann tries to amplify students’ voices is by providing them with the proper materials. “I have always been a teacher of immigrant students and sometimes you see that the materials and books you use aren’t the right books, so I always wanted to fight for their rights.”  She also came to this school because she wanted to be involved with a school of students from other countries. “I wouldn’t  have said let me be a principal anywhere. I didn’t need to be a principal, but this school is the type of school that I always wanted to work in.”

Messmann said being a principal is challenging. She takes the job home with her because there are so many responsibilities, so in her free time, she’s thinking and planning, writing emails, or she’s on her phone. The COVID-19 pandemic complicated her duties because many kids were out of school and it was difficult to try to get everyone back in an organized fashion. She also had to help the teachers to get comfortable going back to the manner that they were accustomed to teaching before.  She saw the main challenge as trying to teach kids language through a computer because some of them have limited experience with computers.

You need to build a community to learn a language because you need to feel safe, secure and welcome “ she said. Perhaps the best aspect of her profession is talking with her students and building relationships with them by being respectful, nice, friendly and comfortable. There is nothing that she doesn’t like about her profession.

Being a principal has taught Messmann a lot of new things. For example before becoming a principal, she wasn’t responsible for attendance and now she is, so this is a new responsibility for her. She carries a lot of responsibility for her students and if there is something wrong going on, Messmann has to be in charge of it. Overall, her profession has given her many more responsibilities but she has become very adaptable by meeting these new responsibilities.

Messmann wants to lead Newcomers by having a vision for the entire school program transformed into a plan that will be accepted by the vice principals and the teachers. The next challenge she has is to make sure that this vision is being implemented properly by evaluating the teachers. She also has to supervise the assistant principals to make sure her vision is being carried out. “We all have to be working for the same goal and giving the same feedback so I have to supervise the assistant principals and make sure they are working towards my goal and then I have to make sure the teachers are working towards my goal so that’s my big role, “she said.

Messmann’s first day of being a principal in Newcomers High School was very emotional for her.  “I have to leave the place where I had been. I was kind of sad,” Messmann said. She was excited and nervous at the same time because she had so many emotions that she couldn’t think about at the time. She was also grateful that everybody was nice to her. It’s a good time that she always wants to remember.

Messmann talks about the next steps in our school. We all know many students come from different countries.  They can’t all speak or understand English that well so she is thinking about making the English curriculum better, stronger and more meaningful.

Messmann thinks that English is the most important thing in our school and wants to observe what books are being read, why are we reading them, and what are we trying to teach students when we use these books, therefore we have to start reading actual books. “The ELA curriculum is the backbone of the school,” she said.

Messmann also said that she wants to find books that are all different levels so that the students who don’t speak English that well can still talk about college topics.  Messmann plans on building a culture of reading and writing where we have access to many interesting books to read.

“You know holding books in your hand and all of the curriculum is connected to big important ideas that are going to prepare students for college and when they are adults,” she said.  Messmann said that we should be talking about racism and discrimination and gender roles; things that are important for college. She believes that everybody, no matter their English level, can go to college when they are ready so that’s why she wants to prepare them.