FULTON, Ill. – Fulton Elementary School’s new principal is excited for the school year to begin this month.
Though construction on a new office addition is nearing completion, and the project will make the building more secure, Principal Jeff Hoese’s excitement has little to do with brick and mortar. His mind is filled with ways to help students succeed.
Hoese grew up in Fulton, attended Fulton schools, found his first teaching job in Fulton and served as Fulton High School business and tech teacher until this year. “I’m as homegrown as it gets,” Hoese said Tuesday.
“When I got into teaching, administration was not my goal,” Hoese said. But as part of Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency – its president for a couple of years – “I got to see behind the curtain,” Hoese said.
Hoese received favorable feedback from colleagues about his management style, and former Fulton High School Principal Chris Tennyson encouraged Hoese to apply for the position of elementary school principal. “He’s been a great mentor for me,” Hoese said.
Hoese had become comfortable working with the board of education and the school superintendent, and decided he was comfortable making the move to administration.
“In my classroom I was able to affect 20 students at a time,” Hoese said. As principle, he can affect closer to 400. He can create “bigger ripples.”
In Hoese’s style of management “nothing’s off the table,” he said. “[I] will listen to crazy ideas.” He’s done it before.
As student council adviser at the high school, Hoese helped students turn a haunted school idea into a reality that became a school tradition, he said. He wants to provide students in lower grades the same opportunities for creativity. “Kids can be what they can see,” Hoese said.
“I look at our students, and I have a vision.” In today’s children Hoese sees the first person to walk on Mars or the person who will cure cancer. He wants to show students that they can do more than they think they can do.
Reading and math are important, Hoese said, but so is creativity.
Hoese has three main education values, he said. The first: Relationships matter.
“We deal with people,” Hoese said. Students, families, teachers and staff have to have positive relationships in order for students to be engaged, he said, and “engaged students show more growth in their learning.”
Student-centered actions and decision making are the second part of Hoese’s educational plan. Schools have to make learning fit the students, he said.
Whether he’s asking about a new addition to the school which will make the building safer for students or whether teachers are creating curriculum that will help them learn, Hoese asks, “What’s best for kids?”
His third educational value is constant improvement. “Everything is under evaluation,” Hoese said. He doesn’t like to hear “this is the way we’ve always done it.”
Education must be lean, efficient and what is best for the students and for staff.
“I want them to continuously improve,” Hoese said.
Technology and family dynamics have changed, Hoese said, and schools have to change their methods to keep up. Fulton schools are part of Illinois’ competency-based pilot program, and Hoese intends to take things slowly and “do it correctly,” he said.
“Change is coming. That change is going to be uncomfortable.” Getting out of their comfort zones is the way people grow, Hoese said. “I want to put them in those uncomfortable situations. … I want them to take chances. I want them to take risks.
“Some may need a little more hand holding,” Hoese said, but all students can achieve.
That achievement starts with a strong foundation at the elementary school level, Hoese said, and making sure students know they are cared for and loved.”
If schools give students the relationships they need and the creative outlet they need, “test scores will take care of themselves.”
The school year begins for Fulton Elementary students Wednesday, Aug. 21.