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New School Leader Loves ‘100 Percent Authenticity’ of Students

Meet your Principal: Aaron Berlin

School: Godwin Heights Middle School

Previous job?
For the past few years I have been working as the assistant principal at Godwin Heights High School. We are a small school district of just over 2,000 students. We are one of the most diverse districts in Kent County, and we believe it is our diversity that makes us special.

I earned my bachelor of arts in education from Cornerstone University, majoring in social studies and minoring in health. I earned my master’s in educational leadership from Western Michigan University.

Other positions you have held in education (title, school, district, state):
I have had a variety of positions in educational settings, including in-school suspension supervisor and dean of students at Grandville Public Schools. My first job here at Godwin Heights was as a youth development coordinator at the middle school. I transferred to the high school as dean of students, then became assistant principal.

How about jobs outside education (even the unexpected is welcome!)?
I am 48. In my earlier years I had a variety of jobs. I spent a few years in the restaurant business as head chef at a restaurant. After a few years of working 70 hours a week I decided to go back to school and earn my degree in education.

Besides getting to know the staff and families, what are you most looking forward to as principal here?
I am looking forward to having the chance to come to school every day and work with all of my students. I believe it is my job as principal to pour into these children, and to give my staff the support they need to help the students develop the tools they will need to achieve their goals as they grow older.

Aaron Berlin
Aaron Berlin

What kind of kid were you at the age of students at this new school (your personality, interests, hobbies, activities)?
Funny, I was just talking about my experiences as a middle-school student with another staff member last week. I was a terrible student back in middle school. I was extremely smart but really struggled to find success in the classroom. I struggled because I never learned to be a good student in the classroom, to take good notes, do my homework and simply stay organized. Most importantly, I never was willing to ask the people around me for help. I had family and teachers in my corner pushing me to do better and never really lived up to those expectations.

It was not until I was much older and went to school as an adult that I figured out how to be a good student.

My wife and I have been married for going on 21 years. Linda is a teacher and has spent the last 20 years teaching at Grandville Public Schools. We have a daughter named Sierra; she is almost 14 years old and entering her first year at Grandville. Both of the women in my life are much smarter than I am.

My biggest interest outside of work is spending time with my family. We love watching movies and playing golf as a family. I have spent 20 years coaching high school football. My role as a principal has taken up my time and so I am no longer coaching. My goal, when all is said and done, is to find myself coaching some seventh- and eighth-grade football, spending my time working with the younger players.

What inspires you, both in your educational role and in your own life?
My goal is to grow as a husband, a father and a friend. The older I get the more I understand how challenging that goal can be. Everyday life gives us opportunities to learn through our own experiences. My hope it to get better at those three things on a daily basis.

What makes you laugh (we bet you’ll say kids – what else?)
I love hearing the honesty that comes from student conversations. If you are having a rough day and just take a movement and spend some time with a bunch of fifth grade students during lunch, they will say some of the funniest things you will ever hear. They are 100 percent authentic at that age and it is just awesome to hear all of them laughing at the same time. It almost becomes contagious.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Some people would be surprised that I love to golf. I try to get out as much as possible. Being out of the course is one way that I find to relax. I am not very good, but I love to play and have fun with friends and family.

Tell us about a non-professional book you recommend and why:
In my free time I love to read mysteries, thrillers and good old-fashioned spy novels. I just finished all the books in the Mitch Rapp series written by Vince Flynn. Sometimes it is good to simply get away and shut the mind down for a bit.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is managing editor and reporter, covering Kentwood, Lowell and Wyoming. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013, and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio


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