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Whole-child advocates ready to lead, collaborate

Meet Your Principals: Brent Huck and Megan Ballmer

Brent Huck, Caledonia Elementary School

Previous positions in education? Sixth-grade teacher, Milan Middle School, Milan, Michigan. Sixth-grade teacher and principal, Bursley Elementary School, Jenison Public Schools.

Jobs outside education:  “During high school and college, I worked for the City of Riverview’s Parks and Recreation Department, a small city located south of Detroit. I started out facilitating summer youth programs like Art in the Park or Sports Sampler. I eventually transitioned into a maintenance role, where I was responsible for taking care of the city’s baseball fields, parks and swimming pool. A favorite memory of that job was helping with the city’s annual Summerfest; I enjoyed helping out with the carnival games, fishing derby, car show and the fireworks during this weekend-long festival.”

Education: Bachelor’s degree in sociology and master’s in educational studies, the University of Michigan. Administration certification, Grand Valley State University.

Family: Wife, Kim, is a physical therapist at Spectrum Health. Three sons: Louis, second grade; Harrison, kindergarten; and, Reid, 3. 

What are some of your hobbies or interests? “When I’m not at school, I enjoy doing anything active outdoors, especially fishing. I also really enjoy scuba diving.”

What were you like when you were the age of your students? “Growing up, I loved school, sports and reading. You could often find me on the baseball diamond, hanging out with friends or curled up with a Matt Christopher book.”

Caledonia Elementary School Principal Brent Huck

The biggest lesson you have learned from students: “My students inspire me on a daily basis. They are positive, resilient and accepting. Each day, they remind me of the power of a smile and a warm greeting.”

If you could go back to school… “I would go back to second grade, because I had an amazing teacher who made me feel loved and valued each and every day.” 

How has it been starting at a new school as a new principal during a pandemic? “The strangest part of everything was experiencing the interviewing and hiring process entirely virtual. After getting to know people, even without meeting in person, I feel welcome, supported and happy to be here.”

What potentially positive change do you hope comes out of this for schools? “Every challenge is an opportunity for personal and systematic growth. I think educators will emerge from this pandemic with stronger technology integration skills and a renewed focus on making sure students feel safe, valued, loved and connected to their classroom and school community. I’m a big believer in the power of teamwork and collaboration. My staff does amazing work, and we share the same goal for student success.”

If a theme song played every time you walked into your school building, which song would you choose? “Eye of the Tiger.’  Each day is an opportunity, and this song reminds me to seize this opportunity.”

Megan Ballmer, Kettle Lake Elementary School

Megan Ballmer

Previous positions in education: Fourth grade teacher, West Oakview Elementary in Northview Public Schools; principal at Duncan Lake Early Childhood Center

Jobs outside education: In college, Ballmer was a lifeguard at Michigan State University. She also worked as a lifeguard and swim instructor for the city of Grand Rapids Parks & Recreation Department. “During high school, I worked with some of my friends at Chuck E. Cheese. Making cotton candy was my favorite part of the job, and I can still remember the smell of parmesan breadsticks cooking in the kitchen.”

Education: Bachelor’s degree in elementary education and master’s in curriculum and teaching, Michigan State University. She earned a second master’s in educational leadership from Grand Valley State University “at the same time as my younger brother, and we’re both principals now!” 

Family: Married with two wonderful children, one in third grade and the other in fourth grade. 

Hobbies/interests: “Exercising, cooking, reading, vacationing, outdoor activities, at-home mani/pedis and facials, spending time with family and friends, moving furniture around, and organizing all areas of my life!”

What were you like when you were the age of your elementary  students? “I wanted to be a babysitter, teacher and spend time with my friends. With two brothers, I was constantly striving for girliness. I read the Baby-Sitter’s Club series and created my own club with friends in the neighborhood. I was involved in sports strictly for the social aspect. I worked hard at school and always wanted things to be perfect. I had moments of failure with friends, sports and academics. I persevered and became a stronger person because I chose to find the positive in everything around me. I laughed, I cried and I found pure joy in the people and places around me.”

Megan Ballmer and her husband, Corey, with their kids, Grayson and Sylvia

The biggest lesson you have learned from students: “Making mistakes is learning, life is hard, relationships are important, it’s always worth celebrating big and small moments and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

If you could go back to school, which grade would you go back to? “I would go to grade 12, because it was a celebration of learning and friendship. I was proud of who I was and who I was becoming. I would have given myself permission to dream big, fail forward, live in the moment, hold tight to friendships, seek wisdom and open my mind and heart to all possibilities.”

What potentially positive change do you hope comes out of this for schools? “I hope we prioritize the whole child and create unique learning opportunities that fit the needs of each individual student. I hope we give more credit to teachers as essential workers and strive to pay them their worth in gold. I also hope we collaborate more with families in the educational journeys of our children.”

If your theme song played every time you walked into your school building, which song would you choose? It would be “We’re All in This Together” from “High School Musical.” I would be dancing down the hallways, and maybe even doing cartwheels. I am fortunate to have a career where I love to go to work each day and no two days are the same.  Working with powerful teams, enthusiastic students, and positive parents energizes me.”

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter, covering Caledonia and Kenowa Hills and is a roving reporter for Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News - covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry.  Following a stint as a copywriter for a Grand Rapids area PR firm, she transitioned from communications to freelance writing and reporting for SNN. Read Alexis' full bio

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