Instructional leader gets to the heart of learning

Chausow taking care of business in her office at Thornapple Kellogg

Thornapple Kellogg Curriculum Director Kim Chausow heard on the radio that people who have a plant on their desk are 15 percent more productive. So she got three.

“Apparently it works because I’m having a great time,” Chausow said.

Here’s her great time: During an average workday, Chausow can be found visiting classrooms across the district to see learning in action. Or she could be meeting with community members and talking with business owners about job skills they are looking for in employees. She also spends a lot of time researching ways to improve overall education.

“It really is a job where you are on the move,” said Chausow, hired as curriculum director in 2012. “Which I love.”

It’s a job she has evolved into over a 30-year career with Thornapple Kellogg Schools, with started in a Page Elementary School classroom and eventually became overseeing teaching and learning for the entire district. She is grateful for all of it.

“There’s something special about this place,” she said. “Something special about the community and about the way we work. It hasn’t felt like 30 years.”

Planting Roots in Classrooms

Getting to Know Kim Chausow  

• She earned a bachelor’s of arts with a major in elementary education, and a master’s of arts in curriculum and teaching, both from Michigan State University
• She started teaching at Thornapple Kellogg in 1990
• She has three children — a daughter and twin sons
• In her free time she enjoys being outside, gardening and landscaping and participating in summer and winter outdoor sports

Originally hired as a fourth grade teacher, the classroom is where she found her passion for curriculum.

“My mind was always interested in what and how you teach,” she said. “I wanted to be involved with that kind of planning from the start.”

Chausow was hired as curriculum director in 2012

Chausow later held the position of literacy coach for Thornapple Kellogg schools before taking the curriculum director position.

“Teachers were excited to have someone in their classroom to collaborate (with),” she said. “We were really focused on writing, literacy instruction and quality practice.”

Due to budgetary cuts and tight times, however, literacy coach positions were eliminated, and Chausow was encouraged by then Superintendent Tom Enslen, to apply to be curriculum director. She had worked under him for over 10 years, and one of his goals was to hire a curriculum director instead of an assistant superintendent, she said.

“I was afforded the opportunity to make the position of curriculum director different from what some people would imagine it to be because of my classroom time,” she said.

Because of her roots as a classroom teacher, Chausow has never lost sight of the importance of putting students first, she said.

“It can be easy to get caught up in the technical side of all this, but, in reality, the students are what matter, making sure they have the best possible education we can give them. Everyone learns differently, and we want to make sure that we are acknowledging that.”

Chausow has a ‘TEAM’ quote on her wall to inspire collaboration and teamwork

‘I’m here because of the students’

Chausow looks at ways to support students through a multi-tiered system of supports: from a focus on students’ involvement in the classroom, extracurriculars and career readiness. She wants to make sure students are well-equipped for whatever career path they choose.

“We are talking to people in the community and business industry to see what they are looking for in our graduates,” she said.

Whether she’s meeting with teachers in classrooms or attending conferences across the state, bringing everything she can for student success back to the community is her driving force, she said. 

“I have an incredible passion for what I do every day,” Chausow said. “The reason I’m here is because of the students. I never want to lose sight of that.”

Enslen, now superintendent of Elk Rapids Schools, said Chausow’s efforts have had a big impact.

“Kim is a thinker, and to this day is an asset to me in,” Enslen said. “She is a problem-solver, and also a true professional in the world of curriculum. I have watched her grow in her leadership capacity from her early days as a teacher..,I am very proud of all she has accomplished on behalf of kids.”

Hometown Connection

Growing up in Caledonia, Chausow left to attend Michigan State University, but she always knew she wanted to come back to West Michigan. When Chausow first applied to work for Thornapple Kellogg, a friendly face sat across from her during her interview.

‘The reason I’m here is because of the students. I never want to lose sight of that.’ — Kim Chausow, curriculum director, Thornapple Kellogg Schools

Chausow when she first started in the classroom at Page Elementary

“My favorite Sunday school teacher was sitting there across from me on the interview panel. She was my teacher and my mentor for many years when I was in middle school. I knew that I felt at home here.”

One of the coolest aspects of staying in the same district for three decades is getting to see lasting connections, Chausow said: “I’ve seen students come back as teachers and I have seen students’ children come back for their own schooling here. It’s really full circle.”

Though Thornapple Kellogg schools have grown significantly since 1990, the hometown feel keeps people coming back, Chausow said.

“The uniqueness of this community is that we’re big, but the neighboring communities and alumni keep coming back for generations and supporting what we’re doing here. I am very proud to think about where we’ve been and the hard times we have been through, but we have always continued to focus on students.”

With 30 years at Thornapple Kellogg in the books, Chausow hopes for many more.

“This is my family, this is my home,” she said. “I feel absolutely blessed to have been able to have the privilege and the opportunity to work here for so long.”

CONNECT

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Chausow (previously Merchant) featured near the beginning of her teaching career
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Hannah Lentz
A 2017 graduate of Grand Valley State University and a lifelong teacher’s kid, Hannah Lentz has worked as a journalist in and outside the Grand Rapids area for more than five years. After serving as editor-in-chief at the GVSU student newspaper, Hannah interned at the Leelanau Enterprise where she learned a lot about community journalism. In addition to her work for School News Network, Hannah has worked as a freelance blogger in the furniture industry, focusing on design trends, and as a social media manager for World Medical Relief in Detroit. Read Hannah's full bio or email Hannah.

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