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New assistant principal ready for challenges

September 01, 2010 | 09:02 AM
New Lake Geneva Middle School Assistant Principal Drew Halbesma knows how important it is to build relationships with students.

So, when students walk into the doors of LGMS, he is there to greet them. When they are in the classroom, he will be there observing and when they participate in sports, he will be there watching and cheering.

"My personal philosophy is to decrease student issues, I need to have a relationship with the kids," he said. "If I am in the classroom building those relationships, when they come to me, we will have something to talk about. At this age, if we have a relationship, they don't want to let me down."

Halbesma, who officially started in his position Aug. 9, will work withPprincipal Anne Heck as the school's administrative leaders. Heck took over as principal following the retirement of Joe Lynch at the end of the 2009-10 school year. Halbesma was hired to fill Heck's position.

He will handle discipline and also serve as the school's athletic director. He has coached football, track and basketball.

"It's exciting to be here," Halbesma said.

He said he had heard good things about the district and so far, its lived up to his hopes.

"You always hear rumors, but the biggest thing is they are here for the kids, no matter what different opinion there are about how that gets done," he said. "Everything is done for the best of the students."

So far, Halbesma has been hard at work learning the staff, building and computer system. He also has created a coaches' handbook, something the school never has had.

Heck also put Halbesma in charge of the school's Positive Behavior Support, which is a part of the state's Response to Intervention program.

"This is an effort to get every student a plan to advance no matter where they are at," Halbesma said. "It is brand new this year and I am spearheading that. We will create a PBS leadership team and gather data this year to start this. But, the goal is to decrease referrals and increase achievements."

He's ready for the students to come back. This is the second school district he has worked in and said he knows none of the kids.

But he has a plan.

"Getting to know the kids and being visible is the huge thing," he said. "If I am greeting them in the hallways, they know I'm around and that is huge. They have to know I want what's best for them."

Halbesma grew up in Yorkville, Ill. He later attended Northern Illinois University. There, he met his wife, Sarah, who is from East Troy, where the couple now lives. In 2002, he started teaching in the Burlington School District. He taught eighth-grade at risk students. Then, he taught five years at Dyer Intermediate School. He earned his master's degree from Cardinal Stritch in 2005. He was asked to be the interim principal at Burlington High School for a year. Following that experience, he went back to fifth-grade classroom at Dyer.

From an education-focused family, Halbesma said he always wanted to be a teacher. His father was a guidance counselor and then spent the final 20 years of his career in education as a principal. His mother also was in education and his wife is a principal and teacher at St. Peters in East Troy.

Although he always thought he would be a teacher, he is surprised to be where he is now.

"When I first went into teaching, I never thought I would be a principal, at least not this early in my career," he said. "But, I really enjoyed administration when I was at Burlington and liked the administrative part and leadership role, which I think I'm pretty good at."

District Administrator Jim Gottinger agrees. He said Halbesma's ability and experience spoke for itself during the interview process.

"He just stood out more than any of the other candidates," Gottinger said. "So far, we are not disappointed."

Gottinger said Halbesma is a good fit for LGMS and the school is a good fit for him.

Halbesma agrees. He now has an administrative position with the age group he wants to work with.

"I think you can make more a difference with elementary and middle school students before they are predetermined," Halbesma said. "You can make an impact — they listen and respond a little more at that age. That's what I like about it."

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