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New superintendent looks to ‘significantly impact’ district

Directing bond projects important piece of his work

Craig Hoekstra has the opportunity to lead major investment in the district where he grew up, serving generations of Wolves to come.

Spouse/children: wife Johanna; son Darian, 24; daughters, Julianna, 18, and Alyssa, 13

traveling, reading

Finish this sentence: If I could go back to school I would go to grade ? because… I would go to second grade because it was the grade I taught and the grade level that I first felt confident in school

If you walked into your new school building to theme music every day, what would the song be? “Lean on Me”

It’s a job the new superintendent embraces.

Hoekstra, who began the position July 1, will be involved in planning the $40 million Wyoming High School renovation and addition from concept to fruition. Funding for the project comes from the bond proposal, which passed last November, a huge victory for the more than 4,000-student district after bond requests failed twice in previous years. He replaces longtime Superintendent Thomas Reeder.

‘My whole motto is: dream big, work hard and make it happen.’ — Superintendent Craig Hoekstra

While construction on the renovation, which includes a two-story, 30-classroom addition, won’t begin until next summer, Hoekstra is eyeing the future with optimism.

“It’s phenomenal,” he said. “There’s a lot of excitement and thankfulness because the community supported the bond. Now it’s our responsibility to be thoughtful, forward-thinking and do our research and homework.

“It’s our opportunity to significantly impact Wyoming Public Schools well into the future.”

Wyoming native and former assistant superintendent Craig Hoekstra started as Wyoming Public Schools superintendent July 1

‘Maximize Each and Every Opportunity’

Hoekstra is a familiar face in Wyoming, beginning with his student days.

He graduated in 1990 from the former Wyoming Park High School and worked as a district custodian for six years. He was Oriole Park Elementary School principal for two years and Gladiola Elementary principal for three, when he also worked as state and federal grants director. He also taught second grade at Hamilton Elementary School and served as a principal there for three years.

He reflected on his path to becoming an educator who now heads an entire district.

It began when Hoekstra decided to pursue an education degree after working as a linen and uniform delivery driver.

“As a student, I enjoyed school, but wished that I would have applied myself more,” he admitted. “In becoming an educator as a non-traditional student, a driving force for me was to assist and encourage students to maximize each and every opportunity in front of them. One of my goals is to instill in them hope and provide support that they can do anything in life they set their mind to.”

Hoekstra is a prime example of how goal-setting and working hard can pay off.

“My whole motto is: dream big, work hard and make it happen. Things are always going to be challenges in front of us, but with perseverance, support and that ‘never give up’ attitude, anything is possible.”

Along with planning bond projects to take shape in the district over the next seven years, Hoekstra is working with teachers and teams of instructional coaches in math, science, reading and English as a Second Language to best serve students with effective teaching strategies.

Gladiola Elementary School second-graders Brooklynn Weenum, left, and Sophia Dykstra show Superintendent Craig Hoekstra a dance game after school

The Power of Being Present

A superintendent’s most important role, he said, “would be ensuring the safety of students and empowering kids to achieve goals that they don’t realize are attainable at every development level, with us and beyond us.”

Another goal of Hoekstra’s is to make people feel heard and appreciated. He said he has learned a lot from young people over the years, and one of the biggest lessons has been to be present.

“As busy as people are, we need to be in the moment, celebrate the moment, make the most of every moment,” he said. “What I have learned from working with students and people in general is that when you are with them they are the most important person at that time. If we are distracted, that opportunity we have with them might be lost. If people feel like they are truly cared about and supported, that’s where strong relationships not only start but are maintained over time.”

Whether planning for updated buildings or putting a laser-like focus on curriculum, Hoekstra doesn’t take the job of heading the Wolf Pack lightly.

“To be an educator is an absolute privilege, to not only touch the minds of youths, but also their hearts,” he said.


New Schools Chief Worked His Way Up to Leadership

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. 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 or email Erin.


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