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Avid reader, Petoskey-stone hunter, lover of great outdoors

Meet Your Principal: Melanie Hoeksema

Melanie Hoeksema is the new Ada Elementary principal. SNN gets to know her in this edition of Meet Your Principal. 

Name: Melanie Hoeksema 

School: Ada Elementary 

Other positions you have held in education: The 1989 Ottawa Hills High School graduate began her career in education 27 years ago as a teacher at Collins Elementary. She also has been a reading consultant and instructional coach in the district.

How about jobs outside education? Camp counselor, lifeguard and swim instructor. “I was a waitress for about a week. That career choice came to an abrupt halt after I (inadvertently) dumped eight glasses of water on a customer. I hung up my apron shortly after that!”

Education/degrees: Hoeksema earned a bachelor’s degree in English and elementary education from Albion College in 1993, and went on to earn a master’s degree in reading from Western Michigan University in 1997. She currently is “part way through principal school” at Grand Valley State University, working toward specialist certification in educational leadership. “It’s busy, but you know what? It’s all good.”

Spouse/children: Married to Tim, for 22 years. Son Cooper is a senior in high school who loves all things theater, and Braydon is a freshman who loves sports and spending time with his friends. 

Hobbies/interests/little-known talent: “I am an avid reader, beach-goer, Petoskey stone and shell hunter and photography buff. I love spending time outside with my family, and dog (Toski) and cat (Luna). 

“A few years ago, I was cast in the ensemble in a summer production of ‘Evita’ in Petoskey. My sons were in the children’s chorus and I thought it would be a great opportunity to work with them. It was a ton of work, but a fun experience. I used to be in musicals when I was young, so it was fun to have another go at it.”

Melanie Hoeksema at recess in kindergarten at Shawnee Park Elementary, circa 1975 (courtesy)

What kind of kid were you at the age of students at this new school? “I was described by my teachers as a social butterfly who had boundless energy and was always smiling. I talked way too much in class. I was happiest reading a book, avoided learning multiplication and was always enthusiastic about science. 

“I always loved being outside. Where I grew up, we had about three acres in the backyard. We had cherry trees and apple trees and took long walks.” A former Blandford Nature Center student, she said it all “helped foster that love of science and the outdoors.”

The biggest lesson you have learned from students is… “I am always inspired by the resilience students show, how they can adjust and take on new challenges. I have learned over the years to expect the unexpected.” 

If I could go back to school I would go to grade … “Kindergarten, because there’s magic in the imaginary play and joy in each day!”

Regarding starting as a new principal during the pandemic: What is the No. 1 potential positive change for schools you hope comes out of this? “With so many changes to the school day, one positive change I hope to see happening is our ability to be resourceful when solving problems, and thinking creatively. Having the time to reflect on why we are doing things has given us a renewed sense of purpose for holding on to some traditions and creating some new ones.”

If you walked into your new school building to theme music by a favorite artist or band, what would the song be? I am a Broadway show tunes person — and an ‘80s music listener — so I am thinking “Seize the Day” from Newsies, or “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey.

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.

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