Veteran teachers become new principals

Matthew Zokoe with his wife, Anna, and children Ryan, 3, and Wren, 4 months

Secret singer, sports nut, summer landscaper
Meet Your Principal: Matthew Zokoe

Matthew Zokoe is the new principal at Cannonsburg Elementary. SNN gets to know him in this edition of Meet Your Principal.

Other positions you have held in education: I was a teacher at Lakes Elementary for 11 years teaching fourth or fifth grade.

How about jobs outside education? I was a self-employed summer landscaper for condominium complexes for the last 20 years in the Grand Rapids area.

Spouse/children: My wife Anna is director of special education at Rockford Christian and we have two children, Rylan, age 3, and Wren, 4 months

Matthew Zokoe was a lead teacher at Lakes Elementary before coming to Cannonsburg

Hobbies/Interests/Little-known talent: I love to be outdoors! I love sports and especially watching our Detroit professional teams. I used to sing often and earned a vocal scholarship at Grand Valley State University, where I sang in the University Arts Chorale.

What kind of kid were you at the age of your students? I was very active. My parents signed me up for everything and I loved it. I was the student in the room who followed the rules and felt terrible when a rule was broken. I loved my elementary teachers and because of that went into teaching.

The biggest lesson you have learned from students is… Tomorrow is a new day. If something does not go well today, let’s come back tomorrow and make it better.

If I could go back to school I would go toSecond grade at West Side Christian. Mr. Slenk was the “cool teacher” we had growing up. He played with us at recess, sat us down and sang with us on the carpet, challenged us in the classroom, and set high expectations throughout the day.

If you walked into your new school building to theme music every day, what would the song be? “Hold on for Just One More Day,” “Living on a Prayer” … No, I think it would be “Eye of the Tiger.”

Shannon Oullette was a teacher, reading specialist and assistant principal before coming to Belmont

Hometown girl, part-time Yooper, Relay for Lifer
Meet Your Principal: Shannon Ouellette

Shannon Ouellette is the new principal at Belmont Elementary. SNN gets to know her in this edition of Meet Your Principal.

Other positions you have held in education: Valley View Elementary: kindergarten, first- and second-grade teacher, reading specialist; Cannonsburg Elementary: reading specialist; East Rockford Middle School: assistant principal

How about jobs outside education? Waitress

Spouse/children: Tracy Ouellette, husband for 28 years and a math teacher at East Rockford Middle School; four children: Brennan, Sloan, Addison and Riley, all Rockford grads.

I too am a Rockford grad (1986) and attended Valley View Elementary, where all my kids attended.  My first teaching job was also at Valley View.

When she’s not at school, Oullette loves to get on a paddleboard and go to the UP

Hobbies/Interests/Little-known talent:  I have a cottage in the UP where I spend as much time as I can.  Hobbies: hiking, water skiing, kayaking, using my stand-up paddleboard, running/walking.  A perfect day, outside of school, would include time with my family, outside, on a lake. I am the chair of the Rockford Relay for Life committee, which has raised over $5 million for the American Cancer Society since 1996.

What kind of kid were you at the age of your students? A talker and a pleaser. I always knew I would go into education.  While in high school I was a teacher assistant whenever I could be.

The biggest lesson you have learned from students is … Don’t take yourself too seriously and enjoy the moment.  I am lucky to be able to work with kids every day when I come to work.

If I could go back to school I would go toseventh grade.  Now I know it will all be ok.

If you walked into your new school building to theme music every day, what would the song be?  That is a hard one. I always am listening to music but it changes all the time. There is usually a song in my head that I will be humming as I walk down the hallways at school.  I enjoy going to concerts with my girls.

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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