Cedar Springs — Todd Simmons hasn’t put up many decorations in his new office yet, but that’s mostly by design.
“My goal is to never come in (my office) unless I have to, and just be in classrooms and hallways all day,” says Simmons, the new principal at Cedar Springs High School. “I want to be where you can support and communicate and assist and just be there, with the kids and with my teammates. … I’m all about being visible and welcoming people in.”
SNN gets to know Simmons better in this edition of Meet Your Administrator.
Other positions you have held in education:
- Industrial education teacher and football and basketball coach, Pewamo-Westphalia Middle/High School
- Basketball coach, Central Michigan University
- Middle-school industrial education teacher and football and basketball coach, Tri County Area Schools
- Assistant principal, athletic director and principal, Pewamo-Wesphalia Middle/High School
‘I talk to my team here about empowerment: innovate wildly, take positive risks. If it’s best for all kids and aligns to our culture, I want them to feel empowered to just do it.’— Todd Simmons, CSHS principal
What about jobs outside education? In his hometown of Iron River, near the Wisconsin border of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Simmons worked at a root beer stand, washed dishes at a local restaurant and later worked in a machine shop for five summers.
- Bachelor’s degree in industrial education and history, Central Michigan University
- Master’s degree: in progress, CMU
“Central is where my childhood dream came true, so that place is very special to me,” Simmons said. “I only applied to one college out of high school, and it was because of their teaching program and because they had a walk-on program for hoops. I wasn’t good enough (at basketball) — I’m still not good enough — but I was a non-scholarship walk-on; out of 60 (potential players) they took one and I got to live my dream.”
What would you like to share about your family? “I have my queen, Lindsey; we started dating on March 17, 2008. It was a Monday night; I’ll never forget it. It was kind of a blind date, 9:15 at night, I picked her up from the (CMU) dance studio where she was working, and that was that. There was no doubt, she is my queen.”
Lindsey opened the Rockford Dance Company a few years ago, which ultimately led to her husband’s career move to Cedar Springs: “My queen would always point up the hill behind the studio and say, ‘We’re gonna live up that hill someday.’ And I wouldn’t let her see me, but I rolled my eyes — and now we live on the other side of that hill. … I said I never wanted to leave (Pewamo-Westphalia) because those are my people. And (Cedar Springs administration) talked to me about the high-school position and at the time I was not interested at all. But I can tell you, with not one doubt, this is where I’m supposed to be. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. There’s no question.”
The Simmons family includes three children: daughters Ronni, 10; and Braidi, 7; and son Ty, 5. Each of their children’s first and middle names carry special significance, whether it’s in honor of family members or a Bible verse read at Todd and Lindsey’s wedding.
“Ronni and Braidi are big into dance; Ty, we’re trying to keep him out of a local penitentiary,” Simmons said. “They’re goofballs and they’re just so fun. All they do is run around outside, ride their bikes, play in the woods, build stuff with LEGOs — watching a screen would be a huge deal for them because we really don’t do it that much.”
Hobbies/interests: “I like to exercise every day — that’s a big one for me. I love watching anything related to (CMU) football, basketball or college sports in general. … I wish I had more time to read, but I do enjoy reading my devotional every morning, which is a big part of my day. My queen and I try to go on a date night every week.”
What kind of kid were you in high school? “I was a huge loafer — just the opposite of what it is when we talk about personal best. I gave my personal best in everything nonacademic; I was ultra-committed with athletics. You’d think I was reading the textbook but I’d be drawing, like, sets in basketball or a schematic for (a football play). I absolutely did not give my personal best, academically. … I figured it out around my sophomore year of college, just how important your personal best is in all aspects of life, and then things seemed to work out.”
What’s the biggest lesson you have learned from students? “Resiliency — how resilient kids are. They bounce back. They move on. Sometimes, we as adults can be our own stumbling stones — we get in our own way. And that’s why I talk to my team here about empowerment: innovate wildly, take positive risks. If it’s best for all kids and aligns to our culture, I want them to feel empowered to just do it. Don’t ask, do it. That level of empowerment can really cause this place to fly. If you’re always asking what’s best for kids and what fits our culture, it can help remove some of those stumbling blocks to making decisions. (Students) have just shown me resilience in that, when you do make an error, just move on. Don’t hold on to stuff or dwell on it — just move on.”
If you could go back to school, which grade would you return to? “Senior year. I feel like that was when I finally started to feel my ‘why’ and started to recognize my purpose. In high school I was very shy, but I was still a leader — I just led much more quietly than I do now. I always had a heart for ‘the least of these,’ but prior to my senior year I feel like I let down those kids because I didn’t understand my purpose yet.
“But I’d want to go back to the mid-90s, not now. I’ve told our kids here (at CSHS), I would never want to be a kid in 2022. I don’t think there’s ever been a tougher time to be a young person. Whether it’s post-pandemic life, social media, mental health, all those things at once, it’s never been a tougher time to be a kid.”
If you walked into your new school building to music that suits your personality, what would that be? “I’m a huge Third Day fan, so anything from them — maybe ‘Born Again’ or ‘These Thousand Hills.’ Although, I do love anything dance music, too — I married a choreographer, but I brag to everyone that I’m the best dancer in my home. It’s totally freestyle, though.”