Once he knew the why, ‘Everything fell into place’

New principal Jeff Bush confers with biology facilitator Brenda Perry
Jeff Bush is the new principal at Kent Innovation High School

Jeff Bush, the new principal at Kent Innovation High School, is passionate about helping his students discover their path in life. But his own career as a high school student held little passion, the 1992 Grandville High School graduate admits.

“If you would have asked my teachers, they would say I wasn’t a very dedicated student,” says Bush, who says he stayed out of trouble, played sports and hung out with friends. “I really didn’t see the purpose in it.”

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On a personal note

“If I could back to school: “I would go and visit Hank Huizenga’s class. He was a social studies and economics teacher at Grandville High School. He was an icon at Grandville for decades.”

If you walked into your new school building to theme music every days, what would the song be? “It would be the theme music for Crash Course World History. It’s an online course on YouTube and the theme music is kind of goofy and recognizable.”

The biggest lesson I have learned from students: “ In education, its almost kind of a cliché that you put the students first. It might be a cliché, but it’s true. The biggest thing I’ve learned is to put students first. It’s how you try to make a difference in a student’s life and how you try to ground yourself.”

Family: Married for 18 years to Christina Bouwens, who works as a trainer for Service Express, a Grand Rapids technology firm.

Hobbies: Golf, reading and hiking

His passion for learning was awakened in a philosophy class during the second semester of his freshman year at Cornerstone University.

“It was the first time in a class where the ‘why’ was important. Everything fell into place,” says Bush, who went on to Grand Valley State University and dedicated himself to finding the “why” in life by immersing himself in the study of history and literature.

Bush says he hopes to ignite the “why” in the 300 students at Innovation High, a high school that offers collaborative, project-based learning to students across the ISD who want to learn about and explore their world in non-traditional methods.

Jeff Bush’s high school senior picture

Previous positions: Five years as a civics and economics facilitator at Innovation High. Also taught in Yuma, Ariz.; Hampton, Va. and Mona Shores School District in Muskegon Area ISD.

Previous jobs outside of education: As soon as I graduated from college, I took a summer trip to Costa Rica and traveled the country a bit. When I was down there, I realized I had spent all of my years with my head in the clouds and had no practical knowledge. I wanted to so something I knew nothing about, so I did construction for about three years. I started out as a grunt and by the time I left, I felt like I had become a competent builder.

His biggest challenge ahead: “What does the next step look like? How do we do a better job of getting students ready for careers or college? We have to keep innovating.”

James Harger
James Harger reported on West Michigan's economy, courts and politics for The Grand Rapids Press and Mlive.com for more than 37 years. He also is employed as Servanthood Leader at Immanuel Lutheran Church in downtown Grand Rapids. A graduate of Central Michigan University, he also has worked for publications in Holland, Mount Pleasant and Lansing. He is married to Lisa and has one daughter, who lives in Ann Arbor. Read James' full bio.

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