When A.J. Muttillo taught English at Martin Magnet Middle School back in 1997, he was the kind of teacher who showed up to run laps with the track team after school, just to help keep up morale.
When he worked his way up to assistant principal, Muttillo made a point of talking to students during his observational rounds – co-workers say he listened closely and remembered details, making everyone feel important.
After a stint as principal at West Millbrook Middle School, Muttillo is making the leap to Leesville Road High School as principal this week, and he’s bringing that philosophy of servant-leadership with him.
“He’s one of those great people you hate to lose,” said Kris Thomasson, chair of the science department at Martin Middle and one of Muttillo’s former colleagues.
A New Jersey native transplanted to Raleigh right after college, Muttillo holds advanced degrees from both UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University. He knew he wanted to be a teacher from an early age and focused on English after a class with a particularly inspiring English teacher in high school.
In his early days as a teacher, Muttillo says, he threw himself into the work. He got to school at 6 a.m. and stayed until 7 p.m. or later, grading papers and planning lessons. He’s kept that habit as he moved up into administration, usually in his office by 5:30 a.m. – though now he makes sure to be home in time for dinner with his wife, Jennifer, and their two children, Anna, 2, and Carter, 9 months.
Muttillo arrives at Leesville just in time to take over graduation planning and end-of-year test facilitation, interim principal Tom Dixon said last week. Dixon is comfortable passing the reins to Muttillo.
“He’s a people person, and he’s sincere,” Dixon said. “And he strikes me as having a great sense of humor.”
Muttillo said he doesn’t have any major changes planned for the school, which is already academically high-achieving. Mostly, he wants to do a lot of listening in his first month as principal during the final full month of the school year.
His colleagues say that’s what he does best.