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‘Kids want to be seen, heard, and feel valued’

Meet Your Administrators: Alex Schukow, Rhonda Varney

Alex Schukow is the new Wyoming Junior High School principal. SNN gets to know him in this edition of Meet Your Administrators.

Other positions in education:

  • High school science teacher at Cesar Chavez Academy, in Detroit. 
  • Science teacher at Monroe High School, in Monroe 
  • Graduate assistant in the Eastern Michigan University Physics and Astronomy Department 
  • Assistant principal at Monroe High School 
  • Assistant principal at Heritage School, the fourth- and fifth-grade building, in Saline Area Schools
  • Assistant principal at Saline Middle School; assistant principal prior to becoming the principal at Wyoming Junior High School 

How about jobs outside education? “When I was entering high school, I started a family lawn service to help pay for college. It was a rewarding experience to work so closely with my family members over the years that we mowed lawns.”

Education/degrees: 
Eastern Michigan University                                                              
Doctoral degree in educational leadership
K-12 basic administration certification
Master of science; secondary integrated science teaching endorsement 
Bachelor of science; secondary teaching endorsement
major: secondary education biology
minor: secondary education chemistry

Alex Schukow is the new Wyoming Junior High School principal

Spouse/children: Kristen Pennington, Knapp Forest Elementary principal, is my fiancée. Kristen has a 4-½ year old daughter, Seeley Rose. We are engaged and Nov. 20 is our wedding date!

Hobbies/Interests: “I really enjoy painting and when I was in high school, I had strongly considered pursuing a career as a fine artist.”

What kind of kid were you at the age of students at this new school? Schukow describes grades 7-9 as the years he was “finding my academic potential. At that time, I was a large student, weighing more than I do now as an adult. While I knew a lot of students, I did not have many friends, so I turned to excelling with my school work and thinking about how I would plan for college.”

The biggest lesson you have learned from students is… “Kids want to be seen, heard and feel valued for who they are,” Suhukow said. “I try to learn about all of my students and their talents. It is wonderful to highlight the accomplishments of students, and so I truly enjoy getting to connect with them to learn about who they are as people.”

If I could go back to school I would go to…grade five, because going to recess is fun!”

Rhonda Varney is the new assistant principal at Wyoming High School (courtesy)

The plan: rock purple every day

by Alexis Stark

Rhonda Varney is the new Wyoming High School assistant principal. SNN gets to know her in this edition of Meet Your Administrators.

Other positions held in education: Before her newest position in Wyoming, Varney held various positions in Chicago Public Schools, including high school English teacher, assistant principal at Lake View High School, Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center and Wells Community Academy High School. Varney also served as the Burton Middle School assistant principal in GRPS until the end of the 2020-21 school year. 

Jobs outside education: Varney’s first “real” job was as a cashier at a car wash, which she attributes as the reason she always has to have a clean car as an adult.

Education: Varney earned her bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education from Michigan State University and a masters’ degree in educational leadership from DePaul University. 

Pictured during her sophomore year, Rhonda Varney graduated from Rogers High School in 1999 (courtesy)

Hobbies/Interests/Little-known talent: In her free time, Varney enjoys reading, yoga and spending time with her loved ones, especially her pitbull, Max, who “thinks he’s a human.” 

What kind of kid were you at the age of students at this new school? Varney is “excited to be back home,” as she graduated from Wyoming High School, previously Rogers High School, in 1999. “My senior year, I was the Student Council president and I loved planning the school dances. We always wanted to make sure the next dance was better than the last one.”

The biggest lesson you have learned from students is… Everyone makes mistakes. My job as an educator is to help young people learn from those mistakes.” 

Finish this sentence: If I could go back to school I would go to… “my junior year and force myself to be more engaged in school. I was a good student with good grades, but I didn’t really challenge myself. I wanted to take the classes that were easy for me, instead of staying in classes that I struggled in.” 

This school year I am most looking forward to… “getting to know the students – and rocking purple daily. How lucky am I that the school colors just happen to be my favorite?”

Rhonda Varney is a dog mom to pitbull, Max, who enjoys acting like a human (courtesy)
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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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