Picture Ryan Shea, wearing his green cap and gown, walking in the processional to graduate from Dartmouth High school, his whole life ahead of him.

The year is 2001.

Imagine pulling Shea aside at that moment to tell him that someday he'd be the principal of the school, then on Slocum Road.

"I wouldn't have believed it," he said. "No way."

One would think that as a former student, Shea would say there's probably nothing current students could get away with that Shea hasn't already thought of or done himself.

"I was known as a goodie-goodie," he said. "More of my friends thought I was the mama bear of the group. They called me Mama Shea, but I was definitely a person that was friends with everyone and being an observant person I'd see behaviors and tricks. So, I can tell students ... we tried that, too -- 20 years ago. We just did it without cell phones."

Shea says that being a former student at the school, now on Bakerville Road, helps him be more empathetic.

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"You can picture yourself in the shoes of the student. So, when you're having that conversation you can say, 'I've been there. Don't make the same mistakes I've made.'"

Shea says in the days he was at Dartmouth High, the principal position was one people held for decades.

So far in his career, after attending UConn, he held positions in Connecticut, Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical High School, Dighton-Rehoboth and Old Rochester Regional before landing home in Dartmouth.

"I would love to see my name be synonymous with Dartmouth," Shea says. "Names like Lynch, King, Martin and others who have spent their careers here. I am now ready to take my experience from all of my travels and apply it here in Dartmouth."

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