When I asked our newly appointed Principal, M. Rachel Hoyle, what defines her, she told me that she usually cringes at the question. “My initial instinct is just to say, ‘you can’t define me!’” This is clearly more indicative of who she is, than if she had given a more direct answer. “I’m thinking about my enneagram personality type: I’m a solid 4, which is the artist who hates to be defined; the individualist.”
It is clear that Principal Hoyle has never wanted to be restricted by boxes or by singular definitions. Her interests may seem mutually exclusive, but, to her, they all coexist and intersect freely. She attended Duke Divinity School where she earned a Masters of Divinity, intending to pursue the priesthood. Theology had always intrigued her. But she was not just a theologian: she sought a Bachelors of Science in Chemistry and worked in an industrial chemistry lab as well. Theologian and scientist are not contradictory labels for Principal Hoyle, but just two facets of who she is.
So, an “artist who cannot be defined” seems just about apt for Principal Hoyle. She contains a multitude of identities, including being a college basketball fan, a lover of 30 Rock, a proud dog mom to Rufus (yes, as in singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright), a community builder, and a teacher. She has Southern roots, growing up in Summerville, South Carolina, but she moved north to New York to accompany her aspiring jazz singer wife.
While Principal Hoyle never defined herself as an “artist” — though she may want to pursue some type of writing at some point in her nonlinear career — the “artist” part of her, she said, is what makes her “not want to be hemmed in.” She “never wanted to be overly defined by one thing or another, and didn’t ever want to have the mindset that there were only two options — for me, I think there’s always another possibility. And thinking that way requires creativity.”
Not only does she celebrate her own complexity, but Principal Hoyle also wants to celebrate the complexity of intersecting identities within a community, especially the one that exists within Bronx Science. She seeks to strengthen the spirit of collaboration and connection at Bronx Science, during the Remote Learning period of the Coronavirus pandemic, and beyond. “If I did have to define myself, though,” she said, “I would say that an important part of me is wanting to build strong relationships and helping other people build strong relationships with each other — building community.”
Even though Principal Hoyle did not always plan to be a teacher, once she became one after taking a teaching job, intending to continue pursuing her education in ministry, she enjoyed the intellectual connections that she was able to build with her students. “I thought that the connection with students would be really fun, and having an opportunity to help students to better understand their capacity to learn and to engage in critical thinking would be meaningful to me.” She enjoyed sharing her love of chemistry and problem solving and her curiosity about the world with her students. She ended up staying in education, pursuing teaching and, eventually, becoming Bronx Science’s Principal starting with the current 2020-2021 academic year; Principal Hoyle is the ninth Principal since the school was founded in 1938.
“Becoming Principal brought me out of the classroom completely, and that was my biggest concern. I kept asking myself how I would be able to find those connections again in new ways,” Principal Hoyle said. But she knew that despite this challenge, she would be able to bring her creative mind and solutions to the job. “I still decided to do it, because I think that I have the capacity to help the whole school create better classroom environments for all students, and create an even more supportive environment than we already have.”
Principal Hoyle knows that she can make real change as Principal of Bronx Science, and she is passionately tackling the challenges that the unprecedented 2020-2021 academic year has presented, due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Quickly, she has had to learn not only how to be the Principal to 3,000+ students, but how to do so for them as most of them attend school remotely. Though Principal Hoyle has to approach this school year differently, her goals for this year overlap with her long term goals — increasing the sense of community in our school. She wants more explicit social emotional learning programs for incoming students, making these traditions the norm in classrooms.
Principal Hoyle also acknowledges the responsibility of ascending to the Principal position at a time of social unrest and change: she is ready to tackle issues of race relations in the Bronx Science community. She wants to continue with diversifying the school’s curriculum and wishes to increase diversity in classroom materials even more, in order to create a more culturally aware and responsive academic environment. Though Principal Hoyle studied race relations in the South during her time at divinity school, she recognizes that institutions of oppression are pervasive across the country. After moving to New York City and becoming an educator, she still regards her lessons on social justice as both relevant and essential. She is looking forward to tackling these changes, along with the student body.
One of Bronx Science’s great strengths is that it is composed of students of all identities and backgrounds; we celebrate every interest, story, and experience that students have to offer. We boast chemist athletes, mathematician debaters, history buff dramatists, and so much more. Principal Hoyle is excited to be at the helm. While Principal Hoyle may not like to be categorized by singular definitions, she definitely does know who she is, someone ready and excited to lead our Bronx Science community forward.
Principal Hoyle is excited to be at the helm. While Principal Hoyle may not like to be categorized by singular definitions, she definitely does know who she is, someone ready and excited to lead our Bronx Science community forward.