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‘School is about relationships’

New hire will coach football, work to increase student engagement

Northview — Ryan Oshnock not only wants to know what education will look like when his own small children are in school, he wants to be part of shaping its evolution.

Oshnock started April 15 as the district’s first coordinator of student engagement and recovery, the same day he took the helm of the high school’s varsity football team.

He called the dual roles “the perfect match that will really put my skills to use.”

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting push to develop virtual and hybrid learning have jump-started ways districts can attract and maintain student engagement, he said, “but I think we’re just really scratching the surface of what this is going to look like. There’s a level of excitement with that challenge that really attracts me, thinking about how we recover lost learning, how we improve, how we work for change.”

Oshnock is laying the foundation for his role in preparing for and overseeing the district’s summer school programming.

“I think we have to start with, what does engagement look like, how is that different for, say, a first-grader versus a tenth-grader, and what’s best for students?”

Sports, Education Roots

The Battle Creek native is a 2002 graduate of Lakeview High School, where his father was a social studies teacher and football coach. Oshnock, also a high-school and college football player, earned a bachelor’s degree in social studies and history from Wayne State University. His early teaching jobs included Benton Harbor, then South Carolina, where he also coached three sports. 

‘I think the virtual genie is out of the bottle. Our challenge now is, how are we going to use what we’ve learned to our advantage?’

— Ryan Oshnock

He earned a master’s degree in educational leadership in 2012. After that, he said, “I went on the college football tour.” He served as assistant football coach at Eastern Michigan University, Ferris State University, the University of Cincinnati and Central Michigan University.

But “my heart was always in education,” he said. Oshnock spent time teaching social studies at Forest Hills Northern High School, where he also coached football. And he most recently served as assistant principal at Holland West Ottawa High School, where he coached football as well.   

Engaging the Whole Child

Oshnock will serve as an adviser to the director of special education and the director of curriculum and instruction. His duties will include overseeing the development, coordination and implementation of the district’s DK-12 virtual learning program. He will work closely with district administrators to identify intervention needs — both academic and social — that indicate possible engagement barriers.

“I think the virtual genie is out of the bottle,” he said. “Our challenge now is, how are we going to use what we’ve learned to our advantage? For so long it’s been just the brick-and-mortar, one-size-fits-all model. Now we are going to be able to tailor in so many ways what best fits individual students.”

Athletic Director Pat Marsman called Oshnock “an incredible educator, an excellent coach and an even better person.” 

“As excited as I am for our students to be coached by Ryan,” Marsman said, “I am even more excited that Ryan is now in a position to impact all Northview students in this new role for our district.” 

Oshnock thinks his dual roles at Northview can complement each other.

“When you’re building a football program, you have to have engagement at the lower levels to grow interest and enthusiasm. One way we might measure engagement is, are they connected with an extracurricular activity? Were there opportunities from those earlier grades?” With extracurriculars, he added, “there’s room for anyone from any kind of background.”

Oshnock also thinks his experiences at school districts of varied sizes, demographics and diverse student populations will inform how he approaches student engagement. 

“I’ve worked with students from all different walks of life, and the bottom line of what I have learned is, school is about relationships,” he said. “It’s going to be more important than ever to develop relationships with students and families to build and maintain trust in the system, and to believe in the work we’re doing.”

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering Kent ISD, 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

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